VA Disability For Sleep Apnea

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GETTING DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR VA SLEEP APNEA

Many veterans suffer from sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, and don't even realize it. Also, they may not be aware sleep apnea is a medical condition the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers a disability. If veterans are diagnosed with sleep apnea and file a VA claim, they may be eligible to receive VA compensation and benefits.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported in a July 2021 study that veterans commonly have undiagnosed and undertreated sleep disorders, putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. In the sampling of 420 veterans studied, over half were positive for a sleep apnea condition. People with sleep apnea symptoms tend to snore loudly and often have unexplained fatigue, a morning dry mouth or headache, insomnia, and mood swings. But, there can be much more serious health complications as well.

Veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are more likely to develop sleep ailments such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea would then be considered a secondary condition to TBI or PTSD. Other mental, physical and social health issues veterans experience, such as anxiety, depression, asthma, or toxin exposure, may also affect their sleep and cause sleeping maladies as well.

Sleep disorder symptoms are often connected to military service because they begin during a person's time in the armed forces. Other service personnel might notice snoring or observe when breathing stops during sleep at night, but the affected individuals may not be aware of it themselves and won't contact a doctor or seek medical treatment. These symptoms may continue to progress long after a person leaves the military. Proving the condition is service-connected can be difficult to accomplish alone. Wettermark Keith has VA lawyers who can help with a VA sleep apnea claim so veterans can receive the VA disability compensation and benefits they rightly deserve.

WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?

"Sleep Apnea" is a disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly while a person sleeps. Snoring and often feeling tired are the main consequences of sleep apnea for a person, but it can cause adverse health effects like high blood pressure and heart problems too. With sleep apnea, breathing may pause for ten seconds or more before reflexes automatically start and breathing resumes. The two main types of sleep apnea are:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea - OSA (most common)  During sleep, the throat muscles relax too much, causing an upper airway obstruction that doesn't allow normal breathing through the mouth or nose. Obstructive sleep apnea is classified by severity based on a system called the "apnea-hyponea index," or AHI. It measures how many breathing pauses are experienced each hour of sleep:

  • Mild - AHI between 5 and 15
  • Moderate - AHI between 15 and 30
  • Severe - AHI over 30

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy is the most commonly recommended OSA treatment. Patients use a small machine that utilizes mild air pressure to keep airways open while sleeping. Usually, the device consists of a mask covering the nose (and sometimes the mouth, too), a tube connected to the mask and to the device, and a motor in the device that blows air through the tube.

Central Sleep Apnea - CSA (less common)  During Sleep, the brain doesn't send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing. There is a neurological issue involved with this type of sleep apnea.

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Sleep Apnea VETERANS DISABILITY SOLUTIONS

FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

Common risk factors for sleep apnea in veterans are having excess body weight, a large neck circumference, a narrow airway, being male and older, a family history of apnea, smoking, use of alcohol and sedatives, nasal congestion, and certain medical conditions. Besides snoring and daytime fatigue, more serious complications from sleep apnea include depression, hypertension, stroke, heart attack and arrhythmia, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems, and issues with general anesthesia during surgery. 

Veterans may be eligible for VA disability compensation and benefits due to a sleep apnea condition because they are at an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, memory issues, and other more serious health problems. Sleep apnea can interfere with veterans' ability to work and hold gainful employment. A diagnosis alone will not qualify veterans for VA disability benefits. The condition must be proven to have a connection to the veteran's military service time. Contact the lawyers at Wettermark Keith; they can help file and confirm a VA claim with a service connection or secondary condition.

To prove a service connection for sleep apnea to the VA on a direct basis, veterans must show evidence of the following: a current diagnosis of sleep apnea confirmed by a sleep study and an in-service event, injury, or illness that is medically linked to their sleep apnea. The VA might determine a secondary service connection if the sleep apnea is caused by another service-related condition, such as PTSD or toxin exposure.

A sleep study is the best way to diagnose a sleep disorder disability like sleep apnea. This is a complete evaluation of a person's sleep. In a sleep study, a person stays at a hospital or sleep center for a night. Brain waves, heart rate, and breathing are recorded and observed as a person sleeps. Eye, arm, and leg movements are tracked, and blood oxygen levels are monitored. All of this information is used to make a diagnosis. A sleep study may be recommended to do the following:

  • test for sleep-related breathing disorders, including sleep apnea
  • evaluate abnormal behaviors during sleep due to parasomnias
  • evaluate narcolepsy or other hypersomnia-related conditions
  • adjust airflow levels in patients who receive CPAP therapy for sleep-related breathing disorders
  • determine why sleep condition treatment is not working 

WHAT IS THE SLEEP APNEA VA RATING?

Under the current veterans sleep apnea VA rating schedule, the VA issues ratings at 0, 30, 50, and 100 percent for sleep apnea, even if treatments are somewhat effective in dealing with the condition.

The VA assigns the following ratings for veterans based on the severity of their sleep apnea:

  • 0 percent: Veterans have a documented sleep disorder, but the condition does not produce any symptoms.
  • 30 percent: Veterans have excessive daytime sleepiness, which does not improve with sufficient sleep or daytime naps.
  • 50 percent: Veterans require the use of a breathing device, like a CPAP machine.
  • 100 percent: Veterans have a chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale or need a tracheostomy.

Earlier in 2022 news, the VA proposed making changes by reclassifying the sleep apnea ratings and adding a 10% rating. Proposed changes include modernizing the assessment criteria for sleep apnea by evaluating it based on the responsiveness of symptoms to treatment. If symptoms are fully remedied with a breathing device or other treatment, veterans would be rated at 0% and not receive VA disability compensation benefits. Other changes may be made to the VA sleep apnea rating schedule based on how symptomatic conditions respond after treatment.

WHY WOULD A VA CLAIM BE DENIED FOR SLEEP APNEA?

The VA may deny a claim if there is no professionally diagnosed sleep apnea condition or if there isn't enough medical evidence for sleep apnea. If there is no service connection between the condition and an event, injury, or illness that occurred during the veteran's military service time, the VA will reject the claim as well.

WHO CAN HELP WITH A VA CLAIM FOR SLEEP APNEA?

The law firm of Wettermark Keith has the resources to help with a sleep apnea disability claim if the VA has denied it. Our lawyers understand the procedure for getting VA disability compensation benefits and filing an appeal because we have years of experience and knowledge dealing with VA claims. We will help prepare and lead you through the long process and explain what to expect from the VA.

Remove the stress and enjoy some security by scheduling a free consultation with our legal team to get started with your claim for VA disability benefits. We can discuss your situation and answer your questions. Our office operates on a no-fee guarantee basis, so if we can't help you get the VA disability compensation benefits you deserve, you won't pay us a penny.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

American Sleep Apnea Association

The National Sleep Foundation

United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veterans Crisis Line (24/7 - Confidential Crisis Support for veterans and their families)

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YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE

CONTACT SLEEP APNEA VA DISABILITY LAWYERS

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You get a free consultation and we won’t charge you a dime until we’ve won your case.