According to WebMD, “Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times.”
There are several different types and severities of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, mixed sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders. We will take a look at these, and the vital documentation you will need to file.
Most Veterans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. The Mayo Clinic states; this apnea occurs when your throat muscles block your airways during sleep, it is most noticeable by snoring. There are three degrees of this disorder; mild, moderate, and severe. They are determined by how many times a night you stop and start breathing, and for how long.
Central sleep apnea is when your brain fails to send the message through your nervous system, to breathe. It is caused by medical problems and conditions that affect the brain stem. This is different than obstructive because they differ in causes. Mixed sleep apnea is a mixture of both obstructive and central, and is more complex. This is caused by the use of the CPAP machine. Now that we have the criteria for a diagnosis figured, it’s time to get the diagnosis.
How to file for Sleep Apnea
The most known way of getting a successful claim awarded is to get a sleep study by a doctor of your choice. A sleep study test will be an overnight study to determine how bad you suffer from sleep apnea. They will look at how many times you stop breathing, how many times a night you wake up, and what type of apnea you suffer from. You can do a sleep study with your doctor or get the “at home” test and perform it in the comforts of your own home. These are available online if you are interested in that route.
To proceed with any VA Claim, it is necessary to have the following things in order:
- Sleep study and diagnosis
- In-service stressors for service-connection
- Medical evidence of symptoms
- Medical Nexus letter (recommended)
- The statement in Support of a Claim for Sleep Apnea
- Buddy Letter (recommended)
We spoke of the definition of Sleep Apnea and how to get a diagnosis. Now we will focus on in-service stressors for the service connections. No VA claim will get approved without this link; it is the most crucial proof you can submit. There is a list of conditions that can cause Sleep Apnea; the VA has it broke down here. Researching this list will bring more results than what we would be able to explain.
Check it out, and if any of it applies to conditions you have due to your enlistment, then we need to proceed with the Nexus, the medical opinion linking this to your service. Having medical documentation of your ongoing conditions is critical as well, the VA must see how it has worsened or improved to determine your rating. This can be proven with a DBQ, Document-Based Questionnaire. This is conducted by a doctor of your choice to record your conditions, quality of life, and give a medical opinion on your rating.
The statement in support of claim and Buddy Letter
A statement in support of claim are witness statements of what they have seen, heard, felt, and know about your service, injury, and condition. The statement in support of claim will be a personal letter you write. This will be you explaining in your own words when this started, how it started, how it has worsened, what impact does it have on your quality of life and earning capabilities. It is vital you speak from your heart and be specific; these have a significant effect on the decision of your claim.
Buddy Letters are very important as well; this can help link your condition to your service. Options for a Buddy Letter include a bunkmate was kept awake by snoring and worry when you would stop breathing. Maybe they witnessed an incident during enlistment that caused neurological problems and noticed that heavy snoring and breathing problems during sleep started after that injury. Any friend, bunkmate, family member, or witness can write a fact-based account to submit with your claim. These can include someone who observes how this impacts your life and the worsening of the condition. These also have a tremendous impact when submitting proof for your claim.
The VA will take several things into consideration when rating this disorder; there are different degrees of this condition which is how they rate your claim. The most current disability rating and severity of symptoms can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 38 CFR 4.97 Schedule of ratings—respiratory system:
- 100 percent: chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale; or requires tracheostomy
- 50 percent: requires the use of breathing assistance device such as continuous airway pressure (CPAP) machine
- 30 percent: persistent daytime hypersomnolence
- 0 percent: asymptomatic, but with documented sleep disorder breathing
As you can see some conditions of Sleep Apnea are worse than others and in turn gets you rated accordingly. Like we said earlier, with any disorder tracking and documenting the effects it has on your quality of life and earning capabilities is crucial.
Fatigue, concentration, irritability, focus, muscle aches, and chronic pain are just a few things that will cause daytime hours to be unbearable. Not getting enough rest takes a toll on your overall health. Again, document, document, document!
Our medical team specializes in Nexus Letters and DBQ’s; those seem to be the hardest thing for most doctors to understand when you are asking for these documents. We got that covered. Like I stated above, these are just a few things to look at and review and can significantly help your claim.
If you would like to speak to a member of our team we can look at all of the factors and get you headed in the right direction; we work together to ensure we file successful, provable claims! For more information and reference to this post check out this link. Also, take a look at this membership option, watch the video first and complete the three steps, we are ready to get the ball rolling. Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you!
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VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.