Millions of Veterans suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health conditions. Many Veterans also suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that makes it hard for them to breathe consistently at night and causes many negative symptoms during the day.
Sleep apnea and mental health disorders are more connected than you may think. Veterans might qualify for extra disability compensation for their sleep apnea if it develops due to anxiety and/or depression.
Not sure how this works? Read on for a detailed breakdown of VA compensation ratings for sleep apnea secondary to anxiety and depression.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. If left unchecked, sleep apnea can have severe consequences on physical and mental health.
Sleep apnea may lead to consistently interrupted rest, high levels of fatigue, sleep deprivation, and breathing obstructions. It can also lead to dangerous secondary conditions like heart disease and hypertension.
Sleep apnea comes in three primary types:
Regardless of the type, sleep apnea tends to produce the following symptoms in Veterans and other sufferers of this condition:
There are many physical factors that contribute to developing sleep apnea, including inherent qualities like family history, neck circumference, and gender. Common conditions and risk factors like weight gain, obesity, use of certain drugs and alcohol, cigarette smoking, and high blood pressure may also lead to sleep apnea.
However, many Veterans develop sleep apnea specifically during their active duty — be that in the Gulf War, Afghanistan, or beyond. Although they may not know it, this health condition may qualify them for a VA disability rating.
Certain studies have indicated a link between sleep apnea and major depressive disorder, anxiety, and similar mental health issues.
For example, a Veteran may have obstructive sleep apnea and have difficulty getting a full night’s rest. When they awake in the morning, they are much more tired than usual. As a result, daily challenges seem more difficult, and their depressive symptoms or anxiety are heightened.
On the flip side, sleep apnea may also develop from PTSD, depression, or anxiety. A Veteran who has difficulty relaxing while asleep due to depression or anxiety from their military service may develop sleep apnea incidentally. This can cause a gradually worsening cycle of symptoms as both conditions feed into each other.
The bottom line? Sleep apnea and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are oftentimes more connected than Veterans assume. Because of this, sleep apnea often qualifies as a secondary condition to depression or anxiety — and vice versa.
Veterans who suffer from one or both medical conditions may receive disability benefits to compensate them. The Department of Veterans Affairs requires medical evidence like an official medical opinion for both, but luckily the connections between these conditions are already well understood.
According to Diagnostic Code 6847, Sleep Apnea Syndromes, the VA rates your sleep apnea secondary to anxiety and depression on a 0% to 100% scale.
A rating of 100% qualifies you for total disability benefits or TDIU. You may also qualify for TDIU benefits if your sleep apnea brings your total disability rating to 100% when combined with another rated condition or injury OR if you qualify for TDIU in another way.
The current ratings for sleep apnea secondary to anxiety and depression are:
Just like you have to prove your symptoms to acquire disability benefits for any other condition, you must prove that your sleep apnea exists to receive benefits for it. To do so, you will:
If you are awarded a secondary service connection for your sleep apnea claim, that disability rating will be added to your current rating, resulting in a higher disability benefits payment each month.
The VA’s schedule of basic rates for monthly payments depends on your total disability status as well as your familial status — for instance, whether you are married, whether you have dependent children, and more. You can check the full 2022 Veterans monthly payment rate schedule here.
Here’s a selection of example compensations to consider:
Filing a disability benefits claim for secondary sleep apnea is a little different from filing a claim for sleep apnea as its own condition. Remember, a secondary service-connected condition is one that appeared or was exacerbated by an existing service-connected condition.
For example, if you did not have sleep apnea prior to developing depression because of your military service, that sleep apnea would qualify as a secondary service-connected condition. That’s because you wouldn’t have sleep apnea and its symptoms if you did not develop depressive or PTSD symptoms due to your military service.
Notably, you don’t have to be diagnosed with the condition before filing for secondary basis benefits. For instance, if you want to claim benefits for secondary sleep apnea, it’s a good idea to order a sleep study from your doctor. A sleep study can prove that you are experiencing the condition as stated.
Again, knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can provide invaluable assistance during this process. The right law firm can:
If your benefits claim is initially denied, the right legal team can also assist you through the VA disability claims appeals process and help you get the benefits you deserve.
Yes. As noted above, sleep apnea might interfere with your sleep so much that you develop depressive or anxious symptoms. In these cases, you might be able to claim benefits for your depression and anxiety if your sleep apnea was caused by your military service and those conditions developed because of the sleep apnea.
Veterans suffering from sleep apnea secondary to anxiety and depression deserve disability benefits as much as any other service member. Berry Law can make sure you get those benefits.
As licensed and experienced Veterans law attorneys, we know exactly how to help with Veterans’ claims and VA disability benefits. We can help you file a successful claim, so you receive a secondary service connection for your sleep apnea and depression, anxiety, or related mental health issue.
Want to know more? Contact Berry Law today for a free case evaluation and consultation.
2022 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates | Veterans Affairs
38 CFR § 4.97 — Schedule of Ratings — Respiratory System | Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute
Depression, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and Psychosocial Health | National Library of Medicine
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