Veterans who suffer from service-connected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including depression. OSA is a sleep disorder that causes the throat muscles of a sleeping person to relax and ultimately, block the airway—reducing the oxygen reaching her lungs. Because a veteran with OSA never gets the chance to fully rest at night, she may experience problems staying awake and face extreme exhaustion.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes depression as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your OSA is service-connected and believe you’re suffering depression because of it, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help appeal your claim for compensation.

The Link Between OSA and Depression

vet_insomniaA variety of studies report the link between OSA and depression. People who suffer from OSA are much more likely to experience depression than those who don’t have OSA. Reports show that patients who suffer from OSA are 21–39 percent more likely to have depression.

It’s been debated whether there’s a direct link between OSA and depression, or whether there’s simply a correlation. There are a number of thoughts on this issue:

  • One theory suggests that because patients with OSA suffer a lack of oxygen, it may cause problems in the brain and body that can lead to depression. Additionally, OSA may cause inflammation in the body and affect “neurotransmitter activity,” which could contribute to the symptoms of depression.
  • A second theory suggests that because OSA causes fatigue, exhaustion, and daytime sleepiness, managing the requirements of a normal routine becomes increasingly more challenging. The difficulty in handling daily life can trigger depression. There are clinical studies to support this, as OSA and extreme drowsiness and fatigue are linked with depression.

Depression and Qualifying for Benefits

Your chances of receiving an approved claim for secondary depression depends on if you can prove your service-connected OSA is the cause. It’s important that your doctor write a letter of opinion about your condition with:

  • A diagnosis of depression—either major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder
  • Evidence that your sleep disorder likely caused your depression

It’s also important that you provide the appropriate documentation—medical reports and test results that show the link between your depression and OSA.

Contact Cuddigan Law

If you’re a veteran suffering from depression due to OSA and would like to submit an application for depression as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska