VA Disability Ratings For Sleep Apnea
VA disability benefits claim for a veteran coping with sleep apnea are among the most common claims the VA gets. If you're eligible for VA disability benefits based on your medical condition, we've explained everything you must know about your sleep apnea VA disability ratings.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea
There're several potential causes of sleep apnea disorder in adults. However, in veterans specifically, the most common causes include:
- Excessive or long-term exposure to fumes and dust;
- Anxiety and depression associated with combat; and
- Weight gain
Sleep Apnea And Sleep disturbances Symptoms In Veterans
The common signs and symptoms of different types of sleep apnea often overlap, making it hard to diagnose which type a veteran has. However, the most common ones include:
- Gasping for air while sleeping
- Narrowed airway
- Nasal congestion
- Morning headaches
- Waking with a dry mouth
- Difficulty focusing
- Risks of Sleep Apnea
- Neck circumference
- Being older
- Being male
- Family history
- Medical conditions
- Use of sedatives, certain medications, or tranquilizers
- Alcohol abuse
Sleep Apnea And Its Types
Sleep apnea is a disorder that detrimentally affects a person's health and overall well-being. People suffering from untreated sleep apnea frequently stop breathing throughout the night. It often happens within a single night's sleep, leading to the brain receiving decreased oxygen.
The VA identifies three types of sleep apnea disorder, such as:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
It's the most common type of sleep apnea disorder. OSA happens when your airway becomes blocked while sleeping– generally because soft tissue collapses at the back of your throat.
As per the NSF (National Sleep Foundation), OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) affects about 18 million U.S. people.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
With central sleep apnea, a person's airway doesn't necessarily block while sleeping, but your brain doesn't trigger your muscles to breathe correctly. It usually ties back to certain instability in the respiratory control center of your brain.
Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA)
It combines OSA and CSA types of sleep apnea disorder listed above.
Some people view sleep apnea disorder as more of a nuisance; it may lead to serious long-term effects if left untreated.
For instance, excessive daytime sleepiness may result in difficulty focusing and falling asleep during work, which will make meeting work deadlines very challenging. Individuals with sleep apnea disorder are at higher risk of involving in motor vehicle collisions and workplace accidents.
Establishing Service Connection For Sleep Apnea
To establish a direct military service connection for your sleep apnea, you must prove that you have the following:
- A current diagnosis of sleep apnea disorder;
- An in-service illness, injury, or event; and
- A nexus or connection that proves your sleep apnea is linked to your in-service injury, illness, or event.
Additionally, veterans can develop service connections for their condition on a secondary basis. It means that the veteran already has a service-connected disability that resulted in the veteran experiencing sleep apnea. In that scenario, there should have a nexus to link your sleep apnea to the previous service-connected disability.
A few conditions that can be secondary to the veteran's sleep apnea include but are not restricted to:
- Mental health conditions;
- Heart conditions; and
If you have any service-connected disability that you think is leading to sleep apnea, it may be helpful to start consulting with the doctor about it.
VA Ratings For Sleep Apnea
As with various disabilities, the VA disability ratings for sleep apnea are based on your current situation. The military gives a physically demanding environment that may result in several conditions related to sleep apnea syndromes, ranging from PTSD to different injuries that limit mobility and exposure to fumes and dust.
A few indications are that one out of five U.S. veterans suffer from sleep apnea.
Depending on the outcomes of your sleep study and any other medical record you submit with your claim, the VA may rate your sleep apnea as a respiratory condition according to the following levels of disability benefit:
100% Rating: Chronic Respiratory Failure (CRF) that involves carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale (enlargement or failure of the right side of your heart). That level of respiratory disability may also need a tracheostomy.
50% Rating: Needs help to breathe healthily throughout the night, including using continuous airway pressure devices, CPAP machines, dental appliances, or any other device designed to keep the airway open and avoid periods of suspended breathing during the night.
30% Rating: Signified by daytime hypersomnolence, chronic daytime sleepiness that doesn't get better even when you take a suggested amount of sleep.
0% Rating: This shows that the veteran is largely asymptomatic but does display documented sleep apnea disorder.
If you are a disabled veteran having a sleep apnea VA claim, the 50% sleep apnea VA rating is the best-case scenario. It places the disabled veteran in a VA's Group 1 for their treatment.
The medical condition is provided a serious disability rating because of sleep apnea's ability to result in grave long-term health damage.
VA Disability Benefits For Sleep Apnea
Applying for and winning your VA disability benefits claim for sleep apnea and related respiratory conditions is an uphill battle.
However, it isn't impossible. Using the information explained here, you may work with a VA disability claim expert to evaluate the strength of your VA disability claim for sleep apnea and decide whether applying for disability benefits is an ideal path for you.
C&P Examination For Sleep Apnea And Sleep Problems
The VA can order to perform a sleep study to confirm a veteran's current condition of sleep apnea. As a part of the VA's responsibility to guide veterans in gathering evidence to prove their disability claim, the VA also has a responsibility to guide them in scheduling their C&P exam for a sleep study.
The sleep study will serve as authentic medical evidence for a veteran's case and help prove their medical condition(s) that go into their total VA disability rating.
How To Prove VA Disability For Your Sleep Apnea?
Your documented medical records and evidence from a C&P examination will be required to file your disability claim and could also reveal some secondary conditions. Also, your C&P exam and the sleep apnea diagnosis are essential to qualify for the upper tiers of disability compensation.
Furthermore, a buddy statement can also be a helpful tool in proving your sleep apnea claim if you can find veterans who you worked with and know your condition or can talk about the issues that led to sleep apnea. Your family and friends could also help by sharing how your sleep pattern has changed.