Why Veterans Struggle With Sleep Apnea

Our firm focuses on VA Disability benefits and Social Security Disability. The two programs are similar in many ways. However, one of the biggest differences involves how applicants are approved. The primary reason for being approved for Social Security Disability is that you are completely unable to perform past or future work. That’s in stark contrast to the VA. The VA wants to know which specific conditions are causing you to be disabled, and how the Military caused or aggravated those disabilities. Since the VA rates each claim individually, no two Veterans have the same case, even if they allege the same condition. However, we do see some trends among the types of claims Veterans file. One condition that has seen some growth in recent years is Sleep Apnea. According to USA Today, Sleep Apnea patients have increased 150% since 2009.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, nearly 25 million US adults suffer from a form of Sleep Apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic, Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax
  • Central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when someone has both Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea

The Cleveland Clinic also lists the following symptoms:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • A morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability

Claims for Sleep Apnea are also on the rise. USA Today states that 9 out of 10 Veterans who are approved by the VA for Sleep Apnea are rated at 50% for the condition. The 50% rating is traditionally awarded to Veterans who must use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

So, why are so many Veterans experiencing Sleep Apnea?

Obesity is a cause, but it’s not the only cause. Roughly half of the people who are currently diagnosed with Sleep Apnea are overweight. Some believe that Veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan have been predisposed to later contract Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea is listed as a presumptive condition of the Gulf War. However, undiagnosed sleep disturbances are the only sleep-related conditions that the VA directly relates to Gulf War Illness.


If you’d like to know more about service-connecting for Sleep Apnea, or if you’d like a free consultation, give us a call today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so we can contact you at a better time.

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