Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that interrupts a person’s breathing. This interruption can last from 10 to 30 seconds and may occur up to 400 times a night for those who suffer from a severe case of this condition. Because sleep apnea is both a chronic and progressive condition, it usually worsens over time.
Those who suffer from this chronic condition are at risk of a variety of problems, including four times greater risk of stroke, three times greater risk of heart disease, and an increased chance of being involved in a traffic accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving related to symptoms of sleep apnea is responsible for 100,000 car accidents and over 1,500 deaths a year.
Veterans are particularly susceptible to sleep apnea. Over 420,000 veterans who served in the military following 9/11 and receive disability from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have sleep apnea that is service-connected. And although there are many causes of this condition, including age, obesity, and a deviated septum, many doctors believe this condition is also caused by long-term exposure to chemicals and dust. Military personnel often work and fight in environments that contribute to sleep apnea
Because sleep apnea has been associated with increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, memory problems, and more, it’s possible for this condition to interfere with your ability to work or sustain gainful employment. If so, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. However, the VA has changed how sleep apnea is rated, and you may have questions about how those changes affect your current disability or your eligibility if you want to apply.
How Does the VA Rate Sleep Apnea?
Currently the VA assigns the following ratings for veterans based on the severity of their sleep apnea:
- 0 % - The veteran’s condition does not produce any symptoms but has a documented sleep disorder. This rating is a non-compensable rating, however, a veteran may be entitled to other benefits, such as VA health care.
- 30% - The veteran is experiencing hypersomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness, that does not improve with sufficient sleep or even with naps during the day
- 50% - The veteran requires the use of a breathing device, such as a CPAP machine.
- 100% -chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention, the need for a tracheostomy or the enlargement or failure of the right side of the heart due to lung disease. This is the most severe and the highest rating available.
C&P Exam for Sleep Apnea and Sleep Studies
If you have a current diagnosis of sleep apnea and are applying for VA disability benefits, the VA will typically order a sleep study to be performed to confirm your diagnosis. This study will serve as medical evidence for your case and can help to prove medical conditions that establish a rating percentage.
How Do I Prove VA Disability for Sleep Apnea?
Medical evidence and documented medical records from a VA C&P exam will be necessary for the process of filing your claim and could even reveal other secondary conditions. A C&P exam and a sleep apnea diagnosis are crucial to qualifying for the upper tiers of compensation.
Buddy statements can be helpful in proving sleep apnea claims. If you know of other service members you served with and if they can confirm they hear you snoring or can offer information about conditions during your service that led to the sleep apnea, those buddy statements can help your case. Similarly family or close friends can also support your case by sharing their observations of how your sleep has changed.
Winning VA disability benefits for sleep apnea can be difficult, but they can be won. If you are a veteran suffering from sleep apnea due to your military service, and your symptoms make it difficult to work, or you were denied benefits for this condition, call Cuddigan Law at 402-933-5405 or email us for a free evaluation. We’ll assess your situation and determine how we can help you get you the VA benefits you deserve.