If you or a loved one experienced an illness or injury during military service that still impacts you today, you might be entitled to compensation from the Veterans Administration. However, the VA has different requirements for different conditions. The process becomes more complicated when conditions are secondary or otherwise interconnected, like how some psychological conditions can cause sleep apnea and hypertension. Proving this connection provides the basis for a case claiming additional VA benefits.
There is a high correlation between hypertension and sleep apnea because they are both byproducts of certain psychological conditions. About half of patients with hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea. People who did not treat their sleep apnea were six times more likely to have hypertension or other heart complications. When something restricts a person’s breathing, their body’s oxygen level decreases, which causes increased blood flow. That blood flow increase causes higher blood pressure. Over time, this may cause a correlational relationship with hypertension. When this is a byproduct of a psychological condition, a veteran might be able to secure benefits.
If someone suffers from sleep apnea, their breathing is interrupted repeatedly at night. People can have either obstructive or central sleep apnea, or a combination of both. If someone has obstructive sleep apnea, their throat muscles relax and block their airway intermittently. If they have central sleep apnea, their brain neglects to send the proper breathing control signals to their muscles. Potential symptoms include:
To provide benefits, the VA requires diagnoses through a sleep study and will likely need to see the connection to a psychological condition. Losing weight or quitting smoking can improve sleep apnea when applicable. In more severe cases, doctors may prescribe the use of a CPAP machine.
To receive benefits from the VA, a veteran must establish a connection between their condition and military experience. Sleep apnea is often secondary to a psychological condition that may have developed. Therefore, veterans must have evidence of a current diagnosis confirmed by a sleep study and a link between their diagnosis and an in-service injury, illness, or event that produced the psychological condition. They must also be able to provide proof of this event.
Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. It has no symptoms and must be diagnosed by a doctor. Diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, stress, a psychological condition, or an unhealthy diet can cause hypertension. Lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, reducing alcohol use, and incorporating a healthier diet can improve it, but if these changes prove ineffective, blood pressure management medications are also available.
A veteran can file three types of service claims for hypertension: direct, presumptive, and secondary. A current diagnosis and a medical nexus linking it to a specific in-service event are required to establish a direct connection. For a presumptive connection, the veteran must receive their hypertension diagnosis a maximum of one year after their military discharge. If a person has proven their psychological condition is service-connected and later develops hypertension, they may claim a secondary service connection due to the evidence discussed above on the correlation between the conditions. The type of link does not impact the VA rating for hypertension. It is also worth noting that the VA has a higher threshold for measuring if a person has hypertension than the U.S. Department of Health.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law can work with a veteran on securing benefits if their sleep apnea or hypertension was a secondary to psychological conditions developed while in service. To learn more about the links between these conditions, schedule a free consultation with us as soon as possible.