Obstructive Sleep Apnea

One of the more common late-developing disabilities that Veterans suffer from is obstructive sleep apnea. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, making sleep apnea not unique to the Veteran population. To be service-connected for this condition, a Veteran must be able to show that the condition is related to service.  Another way of looking at the requirement is this: Would the Veteran have this condition now if they had not been in the military? That is what needs to be proven for service connection for obstructive sleep apnea.

How to get Service Connected

This brings us to this point. If 22 million Americans have sleep apnea and many Veterans suffer from sleep apnea, how does this disability get service connected?

The answer: There must be medical proof or diagnosis documented in the Veteran’s service treatment records (STRs) or a medical opinion from a doctor that links the Veteran’s sleep apnea to service OR another service-connected disability. Most Veterans do not have documented treatment or diagnosis of sleep apnea while in service. This is generally because most Veterans do not go to Medical because they had a bad night’s sleep or feel tired the next day. Feeling tired and pushing through it with excessive amounts of coffee is practically taught right after boot camp.

Medical Confirmation

Most Veterans will try to say that they have proof that they snored excessively in service and they can get buddy statements to support their claim; however, snoring is a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea and not proof of a diagnosis in service. Many people snore and do not have sleep apnea. The connection must be made with a medical opinion and confirmed with a sleep study.

If a Veteran has a sleep study that confirms obstructive sleep apnea, the next step is to get the medical opinion that concludes the sleep apnea is a result of military service. Without a diagnosis or treatment in service, a direct service connection can be difficult. This is why the VA denies a large number of sleep apnea claims. The Veteran will claim sleep apnea, then the VA will review the Veteran’s STR and not see any treatment or diagnosis in service and deny the claim.  As mentioned above, obstructive sleep apnea most often occurs after service and is likely the result of another disability. That makes obstructive sleep apnea a secondary condition.

Secondary Conditions

For example; stress is known to be a cause of sleep apnea. Therefore, a claim for sleep apnea secondary to PTSD is more commonly granted. Sleep apnea could also be granted secondary to musculoskeletal disabilities, radiculopathy, diabetes, etc. No matter what condition the Veteran claims to have caused the sleep apnea, a medical opinion from a doctor will be needed to support that claim.

Call Today

If you have been denied disability compensation for obstructive sleep apnea and think that it is because of your service, you should contact our office to review your case and see if a connection to service can be made.