Veterans Disability Info Blog

Service-Related Disabilities and Sleep Apnea – Breaking Down the Connection

Veterans who have a current diagnosis for a service-related condition qualify for VA disability benefits including medical coverage, and in some instances tax-free disability payments. Determining whether or not you qualify for coverage requires an assessment of your sleep apnea, including the completion of a sleep study. A sleep study measures the symptoms of your sleep apnea and measures your pulse, breathing rate, and other factors to determine how your sleep apnea impacts your sleep. 

More severe instances of sleep apnea generally result in a higher sleep apnea VA rating. When you have a VA disability rating of 0 or greater for a condition, that means you have a diagnosis for that condition and are eligible to receive medical care covered by the VA. For VA disability ratings at or above 10 percent, you become eligible to receive monthly disability payments. You may also be eligible to receive coverage for advancing your education, job training, and additional benefits depending upon your unique situation. 

If you or a loved one is a veteran who is suffering from the symptoms of sleep apnea that is service-related, you could be entitled to substantial benefits. In order to collect the medical care and compensation you are entitled to, you’ll need to fill out an application, provide evidence of your current diagnosis to the VA, and a nexus letter from a medical professional expressing the opinion that your current diagnosis is linked to your qualifying active service. The process of receiving your benefits can be complex and long, but if you are not initially successful in your claim filing, a VA disability attorney from our firm can help you through the appeals process. We can help you with a denied claim for VA disability benefits related to your sleep apnea, providing you with support throughout the process to help lead to the best possible outcome.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

As noted, it can be difficult to identify the type of sleep apnea you suffer from due to overlapping symptoms. When it comes to obstructive and central sleep apneas, the most common symptoms are: 

  • Periods during which you cease breathing while sleeping, which you can confirm through the reports of another person and also through a sleep study that includes professional observation of how your body works while you are sleeping
  • Awaking with a dry mouth
  • Gasping for air while you sleep
  • Loud snoring
  • Having a headache in the morning
  • Experiencing feelings of sleepiness, or hypersomnia, during the day despite having had a full night of sleep time
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep, also known as insomnia 
  • Experiencing changes in your emotions, including an increase in irritability 
  • Difficulty paying attention when awake

Knowing when to seek out medical care for sleep apnea is sometimes difficult, particularly for single persons who might not have others to observe their condition while sleeping. 

What is Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder linked to your respiratory system and involves repeated interruptions in your breathing while sleeping. The severity of sleep apnea can vary, and the amount of difficulty achieving a deep sleep due to repeated awakenings due to the stopping and starting of breathing impacts this. Persons who loudly snore or have feelings of tiredness during the day despite having slept a full night may have sleep apnea. The impact on breathing that sleep apnea causes limits your ability to have restful and restorative sleep.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the three main types of sleep apnea are:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – this is the most common form of sleep apnea and occurs when the muscles of your throat relax, in turn blocking the flow of air into your lungs and oxygen into your brain
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA) – this occurs when your brain fails to send the necessary signals to your muscles and organs that control breathing for you to breathe effectively
  3. Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea – also known as complex sleep apnea – is when a person with OSA has received a positive diagnosis for sleep apnea through a sleep study, and their condition then evolves to CSA after having received therapy for the OSA 

Determining exactly what type of sleep apnea you have is difficult, and the symptoms of the various types often overlap, making it all the more difficult. The sleep study helps medical professionals determine the physiological symptoms of sleep apnea that you are experiencing to ensure that you receive an accurate sleep apnea VA rating. 

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be caused by injuries, or be due to medication use from other primary conditions. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, in turn blocking your breathing pathway. This in turn denies your brain essential oxygen. These muscles support your soft palate, the triangle-shaped piece of tissue that is below the soft palate known as the uvula, the tonsils, and the side walls of the throat and tongue. This can lead to brief awakenings numbering 5 to 30 times each hour for the entire night. 

The following increases the risk of sleep apnea, and could be caused by a service-related condition:

  • Excess weight or obesity 
  • Narrowed airways 
  • Being an individual assigned male at birth
  • A larger neck circumference
  • The use of sedatives or tranquilizers 
  • Medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes and hypertension

Connect with a VA Disability Lawyer for Help on Your Appeal for a Sleep Apnea VA Rating

Free assistance is available from the VA and VA-accredited representatives to assist you in your initial VA disability application. VA disability attorneys from our firm are available to help when it comes time to file an appeal to a claim denial. 
If you have an appeal file concerning your service-related sleep apnea, our VA disability lawyers are standing by to help. To discuss how we can help and how the situation works, give us a call at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule your free initial consultation.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.