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December 2, 2023

Sleep Apnea VA Ratings Explained

Last updated on December 18, 2023

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There are currently four sleep apnea VA ratings: 0%, 30%, 50%, and 100%.

The most common VA rating for sleep apnea is 50%, which means you have moderate to severe symptoms and require the use of breathing assistance device such as a CPAP machine.

Sleep apnea can be service connected directly or secondary to another service connected disability.

Generally, if you weren’t diagnosed with sleep apnea while on active duty, your best path to service connection for sleep apnea is secondary to another disability such as Mental Health Conditions, Rhinitis, Sinusitis, Deviated Septum, Asthma, GERD, Weight Gain, or Medication Side Effects.

3 Types of Sleep Apnea for VA Rating Purposes

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep.

These interruptions, called “apneas,” occur when the muscles in the throat relax excessively and obstruct the airway, leading to brief pauses in breathing.

The VA recognizes three types of sleep apnea for rating purposes: Obstructive (OSA), Central (CSA), and Complex or Mixed.

It doesn’t matter what type of sleep apnea you have – they are all rated under the same criteria from 0% to 100% with breaks at 30% and 50%. 

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax excessively during sleep, leading to the partial or complete blockage of the airway. OSA is often associated with loud snoring, choking, or gasping for air, and daytime sleepiness.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): CSA is less common than OSA and is characterized by a failure of the brain to send the appropriate signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. This causes the individual to temporarily stop breathing during sleep. Unlike OSA, there is no physical obstruction of the airway in CSA.
  • Complex or Mixed Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea, sometimes referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA).

Sleep Apnea VA Ratings Criteria

Here are the general VA disability ratings for sleep apnea according to 38 CFR, Part 4, the Schedule for Rating Disabilities, Diagnostic Code (DC) 6847, Sleep Apnea Syndromes:

  • 0% Rating: A 0% rating is assigned when sleep apnea is diagnosed but does not require the use of a CPAP machine or other breathing assistance devices, and it does not significantly affect daily functioning. This means that there is no associated disability compensation. The 0% rating is non-compensable, meaning a veteran is not eligible to receive compensation.
  • 30% Rating: A 30% rating is typically assigned if sleep apnea requires the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine or a similar device for treatment. This rating indicates moderate to severe sleep apnea.
  • 50% CPAP VA Rating: A 50% rating is assigned when sleep apnea is moderate to severe, persistent, and results in chronic daytime sleepiness and significant impairment of cognitive and social functioning. You require the use of a breathing device such as a CPAP machine.
  • 100% Rating: A 100% rating may be assigned if sleep apnea is so severe that it necessitates the use of a CPAP machine or other assisted ventilation devices, and it significantly impacts the individual’s overall health and ability to function. This rating indicates total disability.

Is the VA Changing How It Rates Sleep Apnea?

Yes, there are proposed changes to how the VA rates sleep apnea.

The new ratings would be 0%, 10%, 50%, and 100%.

The biggest change would be the ending of the “automatic” 50 percent rating for sleep apnea if a veteran requires the use of a breathing device (CPAP machine).

The 30% rating for sleep apnea would also be removed.

DC 6847, Proposed Changes to VA Sleep Apnea Ratings:VA Rating
Sleep apnea with ineffective treatment (as determined by sleep study) or unable to use treatment due to comorbid conditions; and with end-organ damage100%
Sleep apnea with ineffective treatment (as determined by sleep study) or unable to use treatment due to comorbid conditions; and without end-organ damage50%
Sleep apnea with incomplete relief (as determined by sleep study) with treatment10%
Asymptomatic with or without treatment0%

Note: Qualifying comorbidities are conditions that, in the opinion of a qualified medical provider, directly impede or prevent the habitual use of a recognized form of treatment shown by sleep study to be effective in the affected veteran’s case ( e.g. , contact dermatitis where the mask or interface touches the face or nares, Parkinson’s disease, missing limbs, facial disfigurement, or skull fracture).

Pro Tip: If you already have a rating for sleep apnea, you are “grandfathered” in at your current VA rating, regardless of the changes.

About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).

Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start. 

As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.

He 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 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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