With over 508,430 total service-connected sleep apnea claims by veterans according to the latest VA records, the connection to military service is clear.
This post will explore VA rating for sleep apnea and the link between sleep apnea and military service, helping you to ensure a fair VA rating–and tips on how to get you to a 100% rating, if you aren’t there yet!
VA Rating for Sleep Apnea
Here’s a comprehensive, yet straightforward, look at the ratings associated with sleep apnea.
The VA utilizes specific codes to classify sleep apnea, which aids in determining the severity and the corresponding disability rating.
The primary diagnostic code for sleep apnea is 6847.
- 0% Rating: While you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea, it doesn’t significantly interfere with your daily life or require a breathing assistance device, like a CPAP machine. You might have mild symptoms, but they aren’t consistently disrupting your day-to-day activities.
- 30% Rating: At this level, your sleep apnea impacts your daily life, but you don’t yet require a breathing assistance device. You might experience increased fatigue, occasional interruptions in sleep, or mild difficulty concentrating due to disrupted sleep.
- 50% Rating: Your condition has advanced to the point where you require a breathing assistance device like a CPAP machine to regulate your sleep. The device is necessary to help manage significant disruptions in your sleep pattern, which might be causing noticeable daily fatigue and more frequent disturbances in your sleep.
- 100% Rating: At this highest rating, sleep apnea severely impacts your life. Not only do you need a breathing assistance device, but your condition also results in chronic respiratory failure. You might experience associated issues like heart complications, a documented sleep disorder breathing, or even cor pulmonale. Your daily activities are heavily hindered, and you need extensive support to manage your health.
In all cases, the VA disability rating you receive corresponds to the severity of your sleep apnea and its impact on your daily functioning.
The rating is essential as it dictates the disability compensation you’re entitled to from the VA and the healthcare provided.
Are you a veteran denied benefits for sleep apnea? You served our country; now let us serve you. If you’re facing challenges with your VA disability claim for sleep apnea, don’t navigate this journey alone. Contact us today, and let’s secure the benefits you rightfully deserve.
Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder characterized by frequent interruptions in breathing during sleep.
These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur multiple times in an hour.
This disruption often results in a significant reduction in sleep quality, causing individuals to feel fatigued during the day.
Three Main Types of Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): The most common form, OSA occurs when the throat muscles relax excessively during sleep, causing a temporary blockage in the upper airway.
- Central Sleep Apnea: Unlike OSA, which results from a physical blockage, central sleep apnea arises when the brain fails to send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome: Also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, this form is a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Loud snoring.
- Choking or gasping for air during sleep.
- Long pauses in breathing while asleep.
- Daytime fatigue or sleepiness.
- Morning headaches or migraines.
- Difficulty concentrating during the day.
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat.
- Mood changes, irritability, or depression.
- High blood pressure.
- Night sweats.
There may be additional symptoms not listed above, you can learn more from a health provider.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): A machine that delivers continuous air pressure to keep airways open during sleep.
- BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure): A device providing varied air pressure for inhalation and exhalation.
- Dental appliances: Mouthpieces designed to reposition the lower jaw and tongue.
- Surgery: Procedures to remove excess tissue, adjust jaw position, or address other physical causes.
- EPAP (Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure): Devices placed over nostrils to maintain airway pressure.
These represent only some of the more common treatment options, there may be additional ones to consider with a health professional.
Linking Sleep Apnea with Other Service-Connected Conditions: The Road to Getting 100% VA Disability Benefits
Sleep apnea is often not an isolated condition.
Its manifestation can be connected to, or exacerbated by, other health conditions that veterans experience due to their military service.
It can be an important part for veterans to be able to obtain a rating at 100% or closer to 100%.
Here’s a brief overview of some commonly linked secondary conditions and how they interrelate with sleep apnea:
PTSD/Mental Health Conditions
The stress and anxiety from these disorders might cause or worsen sleep apnea symptoms.
High blood pressure can be both a cause and a consequence of sleep apnea. The lack of restful sleep and frequent waking cycles can elevate blood pressure levels, leading to a cyclical problem.
Chronic respiratory issues from conditions like asthma can exacerbate breathing difficulties at night, potentially increasing the risk of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can lead to strain on the heart, while heart conditions can, in turn, influence the severity of sleep apnea symptoms. It’s a two-way relationship that underscores the importance of comprehensive medical evaluations.
Sleep disruptions from sleep apnea can affect glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, possibly aggravating diabetes symptoms or even increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes onset.
By understanding these interrelationships, veterans can be better equipped to advocate for their health and ensure they receive the correct VA disability ratings for their interconnected conditions.
If you believe you’ve been inadequately rated for sleep apnea or are experiencing other conditions that could be linked, it’s essential to take action. Reach out to us if you’ve faced denials regarding your sleep apnea claim or if you’re considering filing for secondary conditions.
The Connection Between Military Service and Sleep Apnea
For veterans, understanding the connection between military service and sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea, is crucial.
Linking Sleep Issues to Service Time
Many veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and southwest Asia experienced environmental and operational factors that may contribute to the onset or exacerbation of sleep disorders.
- Exposure to Burn Pits: The open-air combustion of waste in burn pits exposed many veterans to harmful toxins, which have been linked to respiratory conditions that can exacerbate sleep apnea.
- Particulate Matter and Sandstorms: Prolonged exposure to fine dust and sand can lead to chronic respiratory conditions, further increasing the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Chemicals and Fuels: Veterans exposed to certain chemicals and fuels might face an elevated risk of developing breathing-related sleep disorders.
PTSD and Sleep Disturbances
There’s a significant relationship between PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and sleep disturbances.
Veterans with PTSD often experience nightmares, insomnia, and other sleep disruptions, which might lead to or aggravate sleep apnea.
The interplay between sleep apnea and PTSD can create a vicious cycle, where each condition exacerbates the other, severely impacting the veteran’s quality of life.
Impact on Daily Life
The combined toll of military service-related sleep apnea and other conditions can be debilitating.
Not only does it affect a veteran’s physical health, but it also impacts their mental well-being, relationships, and daily activities.
Given the severe implications, it’s paramount that veterans are appropriately diagnosed and receive the right VA rating for their condition.
A Veteran’s Journey with Hill & Ponton
In 2017, a Marine Corps veteran who had served in the Persian Gulf approached Hill & Ponton. He had a 70% rating for PTSD and faced a VA denial for sleep apnea, despite showing clear symptoms like loud snoring and enlarged tonsils. After a sleep study diagnosed him with severe obstructive sleep apnea, our firm took his case. Using research, personal accounts, and medical opinions, we found evidence linking his symptoms to his service. By 2021, the VA granted him a 50% rating for sleep apnea and increased his PTSD rating to 100%.
Getting Help with Your VA Disability Claims
Navigating the VA disability benefits process can be complex and daunting, but the right knowledge and support can make a significant difference.
Here’s what veterans should be aware of when pursuing their VA disability claims, especially for conditions like sleep apnea.
Importance of Medical Evidence
Medical evidence is the backbone of any VA disability claim.
Thorough and up-to-date medical records, including those related to sleep studies, respiratory conditions, and any related secondary conditions, are essential.
This evidence provides a clear picture of your health and how it’s connected to your military service.
C&P Exams (Compensation & Pension Examinations)
These exams play a critical role in determining your VA disability rating.
Administered by VA healthcare providers or VA-contracted healthcare professionals, C&P exams evaluate the severity of your condition and its impact on your daily life.
Make sure to attend scheduled exams and be transparent about your symptoms and their effects.
Also known as “lay evidence” or “lay statements,” buddy statements can be pivotal in supporting your claim.
These statements, usually from fellow service members, friends, or family, attest to your condition and its manifestations, offering a firsthand account of how your condition appeared or worsened over time, especially during or after military service.
In cases where medical evidence might be lacking or inconclusive, a compelling buddy statement can tip the scales in your favor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Sleep Apnea and VA Disability
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
If you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
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