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Is Sleep Apnea a Disability? A Guide for Veterans

Is Sleep Apnea a disability? What are the new VA rules regarding disability claims? How have the rules changed? This article has helpful information about new VA regulations regarding Sleep Apnea as a disability, and also includes a section with information about how PTSD can impact Sleep Apnea. The article also covers how the Social Security Administration views Sleep Apnea disability claims.

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

For veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, there is good news. The VA classifies Sleep Apnea as a disability for which compensation is granted. There are special rules regarding how a Sleep Apnea disability claim is treated by the VA. It’s harder to get than it used to be, and there are more regulations. We’ll go over this more in the next section.

How Does the VA Determine Disability?
What is a Disability Rating Level?

Before diving further into a discussion of how disability compensation is awarded for Sleep Apnea, it’s important to understand how the VA determines disability.showing patriotic veteran at an airshow

First of all, in order for the VA to pay anything on a disability claim, the disability has to be connected to a veteran’s time spent in the Armed Services.

Once the VA confirms the disability exists they then assign it a rating level. This rating level determines the amount of compensation paid by the VA. Getting a 50% disability rating level means higher compensation. However, recently, the VA has changed how the 50% disability rating level is awarded.

It used to be much easier for a veteran to get VA disability for Sleep Apnea. In the past, VA disability for Sleep Apnea could be awarded based on a prescription for a CPAP machine alone. However recently, the VA disability Sleep Apnea eligibility criteria rules were rewritten.

Veterans Affairs 50% Disability Rating is Harder to Get

The new rules made it so that a prescription for a CPAP machine alone is not enough evidence to demonstrate a 50% disability. Now, the need for a CPAP machine is considered to be a medical question, which can only be answered by a physician. In addition to the prescription for the machine, the physician needs to present documentation of how Sleep Apnea impacts your life, and how it was caused by military service.

The added requirement may surprise veterans who are looking to get a 50% VA disability rating for Sleep Apnea. With the rule changes, a veteran who applies for VA disability for Sleep Apnea could get their claim denied if they do not prove medical necessity that requires further documentation from your doctor.

And even then, it’s not a guarantee that you’d get approval from the VA. The VA seems to showing military band during a military celebrationbe scrutinizing VA disability claims for Sleep Apnea more closely than they did in the past. Is Sleep Apnea a disability? Yes, but there are many things to consider when filing a VA claim.

 

How Sleep Apnea Could Link to Military Service

There are a number of ways military service can lead to developing Sleep Apnea. It can also happen from routine injuries during the course of performing one’s military duties. This can include: broken legs, ankles, back injuries, and the list goes on. The military is a very physically demanding work environment, and sometimes injuries happen.

Sleep Apnea in the workplace injuries can lead to a loss of mobility and activity, which can lead to a person developing risk factors for Sleep Apnea, such as weight gain due to decreased mobility. It’s a VA requirement that a veteran demonstrates the disability claim for Sleep Apnea be the result of military service, so it’s important for the link to be demonstrated as part of the VA disability claim.

PTSD and Sleep Apnea

A recent study found that younger veterans with PTSD and Sleep Apnea who served during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraq Freedom, and Operation New Dawn, are more likely to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The study takes the position that sleep restlessness (a key component of Sleep Apnea) may be higher in some veterans with PTSD because of wartime experiences and prolonged sleep deprivation.

The study also found that among younger veterans, PTSD and Sleep Apnea is not usually the result of a high BMI (being overweight). PTSD and Sleep Apnea is caused by trauma. Combat provides ample opportunity for traumatic events. These combat experiences can lead to PTSD and Sleep Apnea disrupting sleep and make it hard for a vet to sleep restfully.

Let’s face it, the effects of Sleep Apnea can be very difficult to deal with. But there is hope. With the right treatment, a person can minimize the symptoms associated with the disease.

Social Security and Sleep Apnea

Is Sleep Apnea a disability? The answer is: it depends. Sleep Apnea used to be classified as a disability by the Social Security Administration.

As of 2016, the Social Security Administration (SSA) stopped qualifying people for disability compensation because of Sleep Apnea alone. There is one exception. If Sleep Apnea accompanies a more severe chronic condition like Chronic Pulmonary Hypertension or Chronic Heart Failure, then this is something the SSA would likely classify as a disability, qualifying an individual for compensation.

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What are your experiences in working with Sleep Apnea? Did anyone get denied by the VA for their Sleep Apnea disability claim? Let us know in the comments below! When you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get the latest news and updates about Sleep Apnea treatment delivered right to your inbox.

David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Mitchell Reply

    I was recently denied (2018) VA disability for sleep apnea. Submission of claim was made prior to being clinically diagnosed with SA. Prior to the submission of claim my primary physician had for several years suggested that I get a Sleep Test but I denied I had the condition. The VA has also given me a 0% disability for service connected IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis). Since receiving the IPF diagnosis I’ve read several studies connecting IPF with SA,, indicating that possibly up to 80% of those studied with IPF also had SA. In addition the VA has deferred decision on another diagnosis of CAD (Cardiac Artery Disease).

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