Sleep Apnea Secondary Conditions: The Definitive Guide

Veterans, in this post I list more than 50 possible sleep apnea secondary conditions so veterans can win, service-connect, and rate your sleep apnea VA claim.

Many veterans attempt to service-connect sleep apnea as a primary condition and can’t seem to figure our “why” the VA keeps denying your sleep apnea claim.

The main problem is that you didn’t get a medical diagnosis of sleep apnea while on active duty and you never did a sleep study.

I can literally read the VA’s denial letter now: “There is no evidence in the veterans service treatment records of any sleep apnea condition or subjective complaints of sleep apnea.”

Of course there isn’t VA!


Because you didn’t go to the doctor enough while you were on active duty, and furthermore, you probably didn’t even know what sleep apnea was during you service.

You’re not alone here veterans!

When I was on active duty, I had a ton of sleep issues, but I never realized those symptoms might have been due to an underlying sleep apnea condition.

I chalked it up to long work hours, stress from the job, a deployment, and various mental health issues.

You might also like the following sleep apnea blog posts:

  1. Sleep Apnea secondary to PTSD it’s time to start thinking outside the box!
  2. Spousal letter supporting sleep apnea
  3. How to file a VA claim for sleep apnea
  4. What are my options for sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder, whereby breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep.

The “apnea” also called “apneic episodes” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts approximatley 10 seconds or more.

Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and fail to keep the upper airway open, which prevents you from breathing properly.

Another type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep.

How many veterans have sleep apnea?

According to medical research, military veterans are FOUR TIMES more likely to have sleep apnea than the normal civilian population, a truly staggering number…

The major problem for your sleep apnea VA claim, however, is that you probably were NOT diagnosed with sleep apnea on active duty.

Further compounding the issue is there seems to be resistance among military clinics worldwide from ordering-up sleep studies for active duty military members.

But, maybe there’s a better way to service-connect your sleep apnea claim even if you’ve already filed or been denied?

Good news, there is a better way and there’s a laundry list of possible sleep apnea secondary conditions.

So, here’s the opinion of VA Claims Insider: If you did NOT have a sleep study while on active duty and you did NOT get a diagnosis of sleep apnea on active duty, you should attempt to service connect your sleep apnea VA claim secondary to another service-connected disability rated at 0 percent or higher.

Quick note: You MUST have a medical diagnosis of sleep apnea and that must be confirmed by a sleep study (it’s okay if this diagnosis and sleep study occurred years AFTER leaving active duty).

Like my comments toward the beginning of this post, most veterans didn’t realize they had sleep apnea while on active duty.

BUT, you must act now, and you must get a sleep study from a VA doctor or a private doctor.

Secret hack: You can also order a sleep study at-home test kit if you don’t want to wait for the VA or private doctor.

Okay, let’s explore how you can service connect sleep apnea secondary.  

Sleep apnea secondary claim

Service connection on a secondary basis requires a showing of causation.

A showing of causation requires that the secondary disability be shown to be “proximately caused by” or “proximately aggravated by” another service-connected disability.

By law, there are three evidentiary elements that must be satisfied for sleep apnea secondary conditions to prove secondary service connection:

  1. A medical diagnosis of sleep apnea confirmed by a sleep study in VA medical records or private records (unless you did this already on active duty)
  2. Evidence of a service-connected primary disability (such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, sinusitis, rhinitis, weight gain), AND
  3. Medical nexus evidence establishing a connection between the service-connected disability and the current disability

The first part can be satisfied with any existing medical evidence in service treatment records, VA medical records, or any private medical records.

The second part can be satisfied with a veteran’s existing service-connected disability rated at 0 percent or higher.

The third part can be satisfied with a medical nexus letter from a qualified medical professional.

Did you know there are more than 50 conditions that can be medically linked to cause or aggravate sleep apnea?

Trying to service-connect sleep apnea secondary to PTSD? Click HERE to read now.

List of Possible Sleep Apnea Secondary Conditions

Sleep Apnea secondary to Allergic Rhinitis

Sleep Apnea secondary to ALS

Sleep Apnea secondary to Anxiety

Sleep Apnea secondary to Asthma

Sleep Apnea secondary to Atrial Fibrillation

Sleep Apnea secondary to Back Pain

Sleep Apnea secondary to Brain Infections or swelling of the brain

Sleep Apnea secondary to Brainstem or Spinal Cord

Sleep Apnea secondary to Cervical Nerve conditions

Sleep Apnea secondary to Cervical Spine Injuries

Sleep Apnea secondary to Chemicals or Toxins exposure

Sleep Apnea secondary to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sleep Apnea secondary to Chronic Pain

Sleep Apnea secondary to Chronic Sinusitis

Sleep Apnea secondary to Lung Condition

Sleep Apnea secondary to conditions that interfere with the jaw, tongue, or nose

Sleep Apnea secondary to Congestive Heart Failure

Sleep Apnea secondary to Depression

Sleep Apnea secondary to Deviated Septum

Sleep Apnea secondary to Diabetes

Sleep Apnea secondary to Encephalitis

Sleep Apnea secondary to Fatigue

Sleep Apnea secondary to Fibromyalgia

Sleep Apnea secondary to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Sleep Apnea secondary to GERD

Sleep Apnea secondary to Gulf War Syndrome

Sleep Apnea secondary to Heart Attack

Sleep Apnea secondary to Heart Disease

Sleep Apnea secondary to Heart Rhythm Disorders

Sleep Apnea secondary to High Blood Pressure

Sleep Apnea secondary to Hypertension

Sleep Apnea secondary to Hypothyroidism

Sleep Apnea secondary to Insomnia

Sleep Apnea secondary to Insulin Resistance

Sleep Apnea secondary to Liver Disease

Sleep Apnea secondary to Obesity

Sleep Apnea secondary to Parkinson’s Disease

Sleep Apnea secondary to Polycythemia (High Red Blood Cell Count)

Sleep Apnea secondary to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Sleep Apnea secondary to Progressive Lateral Sclerosis (PLS)

Sleep Apnea secondary to Progressive Muscular Atrophy

Sleep Apnea secondary to Restless Leg Syndrome

Sleep Apnea secondary to Sinusitis

Sleep Apnea secondary to Seizure disorders (epilepsy, for example)

Sleep Apnea secondary to Stenosis

Sleep Apnea secondary to Stroke

Sleep Apnea secondary to Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)

Sleep Apnea secondary to Tinnitus

Sleep Apnea secondary to Tonsillitis

Sleep Apnea secondary to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Sleep Apnea secondary to Weight Gain (as an interim link)

Need an Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) to help service-connect your sleep apnea VA claim?

VA Claims Insider ELITE is our premier program, which utilizes our proprietary medical process to identify gaps in your record to ensure (1) service-connection of your current disabilities, and (2) the highest rating possible under the law.

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About Brian Reese VA Claims Insider

Brian Reese VA Claims Insider

Brian Reese is an Air Force service-disabled veteran, and his personal frustration with the VA disability process led him to found VA Claims Insider in 2016, which provides veterans with expert resources for successfully submitting winning VA disability claims. He is also the CEO of Military Disability Made Easy. His eBook, “The 9 Secret Strategies for Winning Your VA Disability Claim,” has been downloaded more than 250,000 times in the past three years and is the #1 rated free VA disability claims guide for veterans. Brian is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011. Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy and holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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