Can Sleep Apnea Result in a Disability for Veterans?

Can Sleep Apnea Result in a Disability for Veterans?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It can disrupt sleep and is associated with several chronic health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

It can also develop because of chronic obesity, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and there is research that associates it with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 5 percent to 10 percent of the general population suffers from sleep apnea, yet its prevalence is four times higher among Veterans.

If you are a Veteran with sleep apnea and can demonstrate that your condition is connected to your service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. Under the VA rating schedule, a Veteran with sleep apnea may receive up to 100 percent disability rating depending on the severity of their condition.

What VA Disability Ratings Are There for Sleep Apnea?

The VA provides four disability ratings for sleep apnea:

  • Zero percent – for Veterans diagnosed with sleep apnea but not experiencing symptoms.
  • Thirty percent – for Veterans with persistent daytime sleepiness due to sleep apnea.
  • Fifty percent – for Veterans who must sleep with a breathing assistance device, such as a CPAP or BiPAP.
  • One hundred percent – for Veterans with chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention, cor pulmonale, or who require a tracheostomy.

How can Sleep Apnea Be a Service-Connected Condition for Veterans?

The VA recognizes three types of sleep apnea; all three are treated equally for disability ratings. They can cause symptoms such as snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, and morning headaches.

The three types of sleep apnea the VA recognizes are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): When the muscles in the throat relax and block your airway, momentarily preventing you from breathing.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA): When the brain fails to signal the muscles in your chest to breathe, momentarily stopping your breathing.
  • Mixed sleep apnea: A combination of both OSA and CSA.

How Can I Get VA Disability Benefits for My Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea may be a service-connected condition if you can establish that the condition started during your military service or establish a nexus (or link) with an event or exposure during your time in service.

Proving this usually requires a strong opinion from a trained medical professional who has analyzed the research, reviewed your medical records, and can decide that your sleep apnea is a service-connected condition.

Sleep apnea can also be a secondary service-connected condition.

For example, sleep apnea is connected to several medical conditions that Veterans develop during service, including:

If you suffered a TBI in service for which you received a VA rating for disability benefits then later developed sleep apnea, you may file a new claim for sleep apnea as caused by your TBI. However, you will need to show evidence of your sleep apnea diagnosis as well as a nexus between your TBI and your sleep apnea.

Obesity is also a possible factor that can come into play. Obesity is a common risk factor for sleep apnea. While obesity isn’t a service-connected disability, if you are diagnosed with obesity, and you can show that a service-connected disability caused it (for example, if you were diagnosed with severe asthma and cannot exercise, which caused you to gain weight), you might demonstrate a secondary disability.

Establishing these connections and proving them to the VA can prove challenging. A VA disability attorney from Berry Law can gather evidence to strengthen your claim for disability benefits or increase your current rating.

What Do I Need to File for VA Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea?

When initiating a claim for VA disability related to sleep apnea, here are some steps you can take to strengthen your claim for benefits:

  • Get a Sleep Study: Your doctor will require a sleep study to accurately and conclusively diagnose you with sleep apnea. You should have this done preferably within 12 months of filing your claim.
  • Get an Official Diagnosis: After your sleep study, review your results with a sleep specialist to establish if you have a medical diagnosis of sleep apnea.
  • Impact on Employment: It’s also necessary to demonstrate how sleep apnea affects your work performance. For instance, if your job involves operating heavy machinery, sleep apnea-induced excessive daytime sleepiness may affect your ability to carry out your work duties effectively.
  • Get a Nexus Letter: You’ll need to see a credible independent medical professional who can review your case and prepare an evidence-based document, called a nexus letter, that establishes a connection to your current disability and your medical service or another related disability.
  • Contact a VA Disability Attorney: If you are dealing with sleep apnea, pursue all the benefits you deserve. An experienced VA disability lawyer can guide you through the claims process and help you obtain disability benefits for sleep apnea or increase your current monthly compensation.

Contact a VA Disability Lawyer for Your Sleep Apnea Claim

For over 50 years, the VA disability attorneys at Berry Law have helped thousands of Veterans across the country in the fight for disability benefits. We have recovered over $180 million in back pay awards for Veterans on top of their monthly payments.

If you suffer from sleep apnea related to your time in service or a service-connected disability, we can help you. Contact us today to discuss your case and your options.

John S. Berry, , Lawyer for VA Disability
John S. Berry, , VA Disability Attorney
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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