Do you have questions about how to service connect sleep apnea claims?
You’re aren’t alone. Winning a VA claim to service connect sleep apnea is hard. Winning a VA Sleep Apnea is much harder. In fact, winning your VA sleep apnea claim can feel like you just led your team to victory in the World Cup.
It’s almost as much work – and it can often take as much dedication.
Veterans ask me more questions about sleep apnea than almost any other question about VA Benefits Law. Closely followed by PTSD, Hearing Loss, Tinnitus and TDIU.
* Can I service connect sleep apnea without a sleep study in service?
* What if it wasn’t diagnosed until years after service – can I service connect it then?
* Can Agent Orange cause Sleep Apnea? What about PTSD?
* How do I appeal the VA‘s denial of my Sleep Apnea?
I got so many questions that I began to do a lot of research into how to service connect Sleep Apnea claims and what is happening with Sleep Apnea in the Veteran’s community.
Here’s 4 lessons I learned that I want to pass on to you – if you can really learn and understand these lessons, you will have the power to really improve and service connect sleep apnea claims and appeals.
Lesson #1: Sleep Apnea is a Killer.
There are 3 things that the human body cannot live – or function – without: Blood/Oxygen, Food/Water and Sleep.
You can lose a kidney, and live a full and complete life. You can lose your arms and legs and still survive.
But if your body cannot get sleep, you will die. In fact, sleep deprivation is a common form of torture, as many of us know all too well.
That’s what Sleep Apnea does – while you are sleeping, you stop breathing.
You cut off oxygen to the brain and blood, and other body systems break down.
If you are lucky, you start breathing again.
Not a lot of VSO‘s or advocates get this when helping a Veteran file a VA Claim.
They think of Sleep Apnea as a disease of the obese, and then they tell them one of the big Fairy Tales about VA Claims.
Lesson #2: Sleep Apnea is affecting a LOT of Veterans.
In the year that I spent researching the Sleep Apnea Field Manual, I learned that there are 39 medical conditions – common among Veterans – that can cause or aggravate sleep apnea.
39 Medical Conditions!!
Here are just a few:
* Damage to the brain from a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)
* Heart conditions
* Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
Here are a few examples of how Sleep Apnea has affected Veterans from all different eras of service:
* Don D. (he asked me not to use his real name) served mostly during the Cold War was in the best physical shape of his life – he was an avid weight-lifter. That is, until he damaged his knees in-service and had to get a knee replacement at a military hospital. After that knee replacement, he could no longer lift weights; the sudden weight gain the resulted caused his obstructive sleep apnea.
* Several Desert Storm, OIF, and OEF Clients have had Traumatic Brain Injuries which interfere with how their Nervous System works, and as a result, have a different kind of Sleep Apnea (oversimplified, where the brain’s signals to breathe don’t make it through to the lungs).
* Many Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange suffer from sleep apnea. They are ALL experiencing a “Perfect Storm” of Sleep Apnea problems: breathing disorders, mental health conditions, heart conditions and diabetes are all causing an epidemic of Sleep Apnea in our Vietnam Veterans.
No wonder Sleep Apnea is affecting so many Veterans – sleep apnea can be the result of other disorders or medical conditions.
Lesson #3: The VA & BVA really struggle to Service Connect Sleep Apnea claims.
I believe that the VA and BVA do not take Sleep Apnea seriously. I think that far too many raters and BVA judges think of sleep apnea as “made up medicine”.
Perhaps they’ll have to spend a night with someone that suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, hear the suffocating snoring, experience the fear that the person will stop breathing altogether, they will continue to not take seriously claims for sleep apnea.
Or perhaps when they realize that Sleep Apnea is going to be as big an issue for our current generation of Veterans as Agent Orange related conditions are to Vietnam Veterans, they will take it seriously.
Either way, Veterans have an uphill fight to get their sleep apnea service-connected.
Here’s a Statistic that will shock you:
From April 2013 to April 2014, the BVA denied 76% of Veterans Sleep Apnea appeals.
Translation: 3 out of every 4 of you will see your sleep apnea claims and appeals denied…unless you learn how to prove your Sleep Apnea Claim the right way.
Lesson #4: More Veterans Should be Able to Service Connect Sleep Apnea.
I spent nearly a year researching Veterans and their Sleep Apnea claims. I talked to several doctors and sleep experts. I read hundreds of cases. I talked to hundreds of Veterans and read their C-Files to see where they went wrong.
I learned that to win your Sleep Apnea claim, you are going to have to put your Sleep Apnea Claim together right.
This is where I come in. I can teach you how to do that. I can teach you:
* HOW to prove your Sleep Apnea Claim – for any of the 3 types of Sleep Apnea you have.
* The EASIEST Way to prove Sleep Apnea.
* WHAT evidence to use and which path to Service Connection to use.
* WHERE to get the Lay Evidence that will give REAL POWER to your Sleep Apnea Claim.
* To prove your Sleep Apnea is service connected… without a sleep study in the military?
* The importance of a medical expert opinion in your Sleep Apnea claim. (In many cases, a medical expert report or opinion may be crucial to success).
* The SPECIFIC EVIDENCE you will need to prove another medical condition caused your sleep apnea
* How the VA will rate your sleep apnea condition after granting Service Connection.
How can you learn more about these things? Check out the Sleep Apnea Field Manual. There are 3 ways to get it:
- Get an eBook version of the Sleep Apnea Field Manual
- Get a paperback real book version of the Sleep Apnea Field Manual
- Check out the this VA Sleep Apnea Field Manual Package and get the knowledge you’ll need to take back the power in your VA Sleep Apnea claim.
VA initially denied (1ST) my SA claim in 2014, I became a premium member in 2015 and followed your training guides step by step, medical expert opinion, 10 sworn declaration statements by family members, co-workers in service and post-service. I filed to reopen my SA claim in 2016. VA denied it again (2nd) in late 2016 “No treatment” in service, VA totally ignoring evidence submitted. I filed NOD in early 2017 request an informal DRO. I spoke with DRO via phone for 5min confirming she received my NOD and evidence. I rec’d another denial (3rd) Jun 30, 2017. DRO sided with VA expert (not surprise) who claimed SA was “least likely as not” occurred or caused by service, moreover, VA expert justified opinion by THE FOLLOWINGS;(time 12yrs since retirement, age 50 at the time of sleep study, and weight gain ?). VA’s expert indicated the RISK-FACTORS of my SP was a results of what he had listed. YEP!!!
NOT GOING TO GIVE UP, I filed a FOIA for a copy VA expert’s opinion in preparation for another NOD, this time I’m requesting a formal face to face meeting with DRO. I met with my expert who offered opinion on my behalf and she was amazed by the decision, but not surprise by the level in which the VA are denying veterans’ SP claims. My expert agreed to write a rebuttal opinion to the VA’s expert. Battle of “DUAL-EXPERTS” Chris, you called it!!! My next stop is going to be BVA, hopefully I don’t have to go there without taking another bite at the DRO processes. I don’t know if I’m authorize a second run at the DRO or go straight to BVA. I only have 50 days to file NOD, or file a BVA appeal within 1 year.
Chris, thank you for the posts and training videos you are providing to veterans. It is the only thing that kept in the fight and especially it keeps sane and focus. Otherwise, I would properly ended up in mental health facility or going insane!!! THANK YOU AGAIN.
You’re welcome, Sam! There’s so much information, so many Veterans, and so much delay that it sometimes feels like this battle will never end.
One step at a time, one claim at a time, one veteran at a time….we vets are winning!!
Keep up the great work, and remember, the only way to lose is to give up!
sleep apnea is DEADLY, my brother in law went out CAMPING. without his BI-PAP MACHINE,one up from CPAP,which i have. UNFORTUNATELY HE DIED.! HE WAS A VET, HE AND I SERVED IN NELLIS AFB BEFORE I GOT OUT,the hard way. if our guys/gals have SLEEP APNEA in the field THAT COULD KILL THEM.!!
Just had C& P exam for sleep apnea. Also sinusitis, rhinitis, hypertension. Will be some time before answer but getting all the info I can. Viet Nam Vet. Thanks for your concern and the blog.
Keep us posted – I’m eager to hear how it turns out!
Have sleep apnea, AO esposed, ’65 in VN; being treated for mild PTSD for one & 1/2yrs.; claim denied; hearing aids supplied but disability denied;pre-diabetic; high blood pressure.
I have sleep apnea and emphysema. I believe the two are connected. I cannot get the sleep apnea connected. My emphysema is connected. I have also had a stroke.
I’m 50% connected with PTSD and currently have an appeal in for 100% on PTSD. I have sleep apnea diagnosed by the VA sleep study. Because of my PTSD meds and sleep apnea I have gained considerable weight as well as an underactive thyroid. My sleep apnea is worsened when I lie on my back and I still have loss of breath. I awake countless time at night due to this.
Has camp Lejeune exposures been linked to sleep apnea?
Not presumptively. But if your doctor believes that your Sleep Apnea is somehow related to exposure to TCE’s or benzene in the water at Camp Lejeune, then a good medical opinion would probably help you prove a direct service connection claim.
I am service connected for chronic sinusitis with a 30% rating. I also have central and obstructive sleep apnea which has been denied service connection. I have tried to connect OSA secondary to chronic sinusitis which has also been denied. I have had cardiomegly X-rays while on active duty. I stated on my retirement physical that I sometimes have trouble sleeping at night. I was diagnosed with OSA 10 years after separation. I did not have a va physical until about 13 years after seperation from service. I am also service connected for chronic bronchitis with a rating of 0 %. Any advice on getting sleep apnea service connected?
Of course, I don’t give legal advice on the Veterans Law Blog. No blog, and no eBook can substitute for legal advice from an accredited VA attorney.
That said, the key here is making the connection from service to diagnosis. A couple things you mention are worth exploring:
Damage to the nasal or breathing passages, like chronic sinusitis or bronchitis, can cause OSA. A medical opinion will be necessary to show these causative connection, and you will want to first service connect the sinusitis, and then argue that the OSA is secondary or argue that the OSA is secondary to the bronchitis. Medical opinions will be CRUCIAL, as these are not “NECESSARY” connections.
Take a look at the Sleep Apnea eBook when it comes out – I think you will find a lot of informaiton that will help you understand better the many different paths and proofs for service connection of Sleep Apnea.
Cardiomegaly – enlargement of the heart – makes me thing of a damage resulting from a chronic sleep apnea condition. Long term chronic sleep apnea can cuse the heart to work harder, thus causing it to enlarge. However, there are more causes of Cardiomegaly than sleep apnea, so you will want a doctor’s medical opinoino as to whether your Cardiomegaly is related to a chronic sleep breathing disorder, or has some other origin.