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VA Rating for Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that can arise from military service and qualify for VA disability benefits. Sleep Apnea causes an individual to momentarily stop breathing while asleep.

Studies have shown that veterans are more likely to experience sleep apnea than the general population, possibly as much as four times more likely. 

The three main types of Sleep Apnea that occur are:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea -- During sleep, the throat muscles will relax and block the airways. This occurs intermittently and is the most common type of sleep apnea.

  • Central Sleep Apnea --; During sleep, the brain does not send the signals to the muscles that control breathing.

  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome --; Also known as Mixed Sleep Apnea Syndrome, this condition is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Causes of service related sleep apnea can include long term exposure to dust particles and fumes, combat-related anxiety and stress, as well as weight gain.

Sleep apnea is known to cause frequent tiredness during the day, also known as hypersomnia. Other symptoms can include:

  • Snoring loudly

  • Noticeably stopping breathing while asleep (this may be noticed by a spouse or partner)

  • Gasping for air during sleep or waking up rapidly breathing (catching your breath)

  • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep, known as insomnia

  • Waking up with a headache

  • Dry mouth in the morning

  • Difficulties concentrating during waking hours

  • Irritable or being easily angered during waking hours

Managing Sleep Apnea

In some cases, sleep apnea can be controlled with minor interventions such as weight loss or quitting smoking. In more serious cases, a medical device known as a continuous positive airway pressure machine, often known as a CPAP machine, is used during sleep to keep the airways open.

Schedule a Sleep Study

In order to get a VA disability rating for sleep apnea, you will need to have a sleep study performed. The VA will conduct one if you haven’t had a medical, overnight sleep study. A diagnosis of sleep apnea alone will not be considered by the VA without a sleep study. 

This is the VA rating system for Sleep Apnea:

  • 0% -- this rating recognizes a documented sleep disorder but the condition is considered asymptomatic

  • 30% --; under this rating symptoms such as persistent daytime hypersomnia occur even with 9+ hours of sleep and / or daytime naps. A CPAP machine is not used at this rating

  • 50% --; at this rating the condition is recognized and the use of a CPAP machine is necessary

  • 100% --; this rating is applied for chronic respiratory failure, sometimes involving heart failure or a need for a tracheostomy

Secondary VA Disability Claims

Sleep apnea can also be a secondary claim to conditions, such as asthma or PTSD, meaning that the sleep apnea was caused or worsened by another recognized condition. To establish a secondary service condition you need to show that you have a current diagnosis of sleep apnea and provide evidence in your sleep apnea claim sleep that the condition was caused or worsened by another condition that resulted from military service.

Veterans suffering from sleep apnea may find themselves in a situation where they can’t work, but even a 50% rating doesn’t provide enough compensation to support themselves. Since sleep apnea is related to, and can coexist with, other conditions, you may want to explore whether you are entitled to payment for secondary conditions. Given the method the VA uses to rate multiple conditions it is rare that ratings for multiple conditions total 100%. In some cases however, ratings for multiple conditions can lead to a claim for Individual Unemployability, which pays full benefits even if your VA disability rating does not total 100%.

We are experienced with VA Disability Claims

The Friedman Firm wants to hear your story if you suffer from service-related sleep apnea and have been denied benefits or received a low VA disability rating. We have experience with veterans’ disability benefits and have successfully advocated for increased ratings and Individual Unemployability.

More in VA Benefits: Veterans Disability Claims