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Anybody can go online and find the Sleep Apnea VA Disability Rating criteria on the VA rating scheduleYou may have found this page searching for that very phrase. And, if all you are looking for are the percent levels for ratings for sleep apnea in a VA claim, well, a lot of websites with thin content are more than happy to oblige.

But I don’t think you’re really asking for that. I think that most veterans already know what it takes to get to a particular Sleep Apnea VA disability rating level.

I think you are REALLY here to learn HOW to get the highest Sleep Apnea VA disability rating you are entitled to.

If you really are just wanting to know the various percentages of disability for the Sleep Apnea VA Disability Rating table, you can get that information by clicking here.

You are not alone. A LOT of veterans want to know HOW to get the maximum sleep apnea VA disability rating.

Sleep Apnea is quickly becoming a hallmark injury for Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf Wars – and is appearing at an alarming rate in the Vietnam veteran population.

As I found out when I looked at a year of BVA Sleep Apnea decisions, 3 out of every 4 Veterans will be denied service connection for their sleep apnea by the BVA.

I thought, at first, that it was due to the complaints of that family law attorney in Florida that tried to argue that Veterans hampered by sleep apnea aren’t REALLY disabled and that they were defrauding the government.

Thankfully, time has pushed the “Mute” button on that uninformed clown. That’s too bad: I challenged him to a debate – broadcast via Google+ Hangout –  on the causes of Sleep Apnea in the Veteran’s community.  The response?  Crickets. Or chickens squawking….same difference.

In any event, as I talked to hundreds of Veterans, studied their sleep apnea claim C-Files, read the BVA decisions, and talk to medical doctors and sleep specialists….I found what I believe to be the single greatest reason 75% of you will be denied service-connection for sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

There are several types of sleep apnea – Central, Obstructive, Complex, and now, Idiopathic. You can learn more about these different sleep apnea diagnoses by clicking here. At its core, each type of sleep apnea is a sleep disorder.

Generally, though, if you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, then you are experiencing a respiratory disorder. There is some physical reason that air is not able to travel along your airway – the path air takes from your nose/mouth until oxygen enters the bloodstream in your lungs. These obstructions can be in the nose, the throat, the lungs themselves: the causes of obstructive sleep apnea are myriad.

If you have Central Sleep Apnea, you have a disorder of the nervous system (although the VA still treats this condition as a respiratory disorder). What happens in Central Sleep Apnea is that the signal from the brain to your body’s breathing mechanism is disrupted, and your body does not start taking in air while you are sleeping.

Complex and Idiopathic sleep apnea are more complicated diagnoses, and, frankly, really rare.

No matter what sleep apnea diagnosis you have, it must be diagnosed with a sleep study.

The hallmark symptom of Sleep Apnea is the apnea event itself – some liken the sound to “snoring,” but it is so much more than that. You stop breathing while sleeping and your body gasps for air causing a loud gasping or snoring sound.

Understanding the difference between and apnea event and regular snoring is critical because far too many veterans argue to the VA that they “snored in service” and therefore their sleep apnea is related to that in-service snoring. Snoring alone is not enough to service connect sleep apnea – I tell you why in this post.

Why does the VA deny Service Connection for Sleep Apnea? 

I spent nearly a year  researching this question before writing my book “Put it to Rest! Your VA Sleep Apnea Claim.”

VA Sleep Apnea Field Manual Paperback

Get the VA Sleep Apnea Field Manual….PAPERBACK Version!

In all that research, I found that there is one BIG reason that most veterans are denied service connection for sleep apnea – they are leaving proof of nexus and sleep apnea VA disability rating in their claims for sleep apnea up to the VA to figure out for them.

Connecting sleep apnea to military service is something that the VA will not do for you. Once you are service connected for sleep apnea, getting the proper VA rating for the impact sleep apnea is having on your life is your #1 job. Likewise, the VA is not going to search out ways to maximize your VA sleep apnea rating.

Most veteran start out the process by looking at those sleep apnea VA disability rating criteria and say “I’ve got a CPAP…I’ve got sleep apnea…the VA should pay me 50 percent disability each month”.

It’s not that simple. I wish it was but it’s not.

You’re not going to win a VA claim just by telling the VA you’ve got sleep apnea.

You’re not going to win a VA Sleep Apnea Claim by asking the VA to connect the dots for you.

And you’re not going to get the highest sleep apnea VA disability rating simply by telling the VA you use a CPAP machine or some other breathing assistance device.

5 things you can do right now to get the highest sleep  apnea VA Disability rating.

These 3 Steps aren’t “easy” – but they are simple.  It’s precisely what I do whenever I represent a client with a sleep apnea claim.

 #1: Learn How to File Your VA Sleep Apnea Claim – the Right Way.

Any time I talk to a Veteran about their VA Sleep Apnea claim, their questions center on 2 things – what do I use to prove that my VA Sleep Apnea is service connected, and how do I get the VA to move quicker?

Many times, those questions have the same answer:  File Your VA Claim – the Right Way – from the very start.

* Find out WHAT evidence you need to put in your VA Claim.

* Find out HOW to make the arguments in a way that makes them easy for a rater to understand.

It’s a simple fact that if you put the RIGHT evidence into your claim, and explain in a very clean and basic way how that evidence shows your sleep apnea is service connected, your claim will go quicker.   And you will probably get better results.

When you are ready to start learning How to File Your VA Claim the right way, click here & read this  post.

#2: Get an OBJECTIVE picture of what’s going on in your claim.

But what if you already filed your VA Claim?  Or you’ve been denied repeatedly for Sleep Apnea service connection?

It’s vital that you let go of the emotion – the anger and frustration with the VA – for just enough time to  take a hard, realistic look at what’s in your C-File.

Get your VA C-File. Take a critical look at the evidence that’s already in there.

Did your sleep study from the military never make it to the VA?

Are they looking at another Veteran’s records?

Did your VSO sell you up the river?

Beyond those very dangerous situations, pull out all the evidence in your C-File related to your sleep apnea claim, and see what it’s REALLY saying.

It’s vital to be objective here – you have to be able to see the C-File from the VA’s perspective.

If you have a hard time doing this, find a family member or friend whose opinion you trust, and ask them to look at your sleep apnea evidence and tell you – with no B.S. – what they see and don’t see

#3: Determine which Path – or Paths – to Service Connection are BEST for your Claim.

Once you have an idea of what’s in your C-File, it’s time to get a handle on what is truly causing your sleep apnea.

I’m not telling you that you have to KNOW the exact cause of your Sleep Apnea before you file a claim or appeal.  The legal burden you have to show is that your Sleep Apnea is “at least as likely as not” related to your military service.

I’m telling you to understand enough about the cause of your Sleep Apnea that you choose the appropriate Path to Service Connection.

There are 5 paths to service connection – a lot of Veterans don’t know this.  Many Veterans don’t know that they can argue more than one in a single claim.

In fact, after reviewing  Sleep Apnea decisions and C-Files for several years, I can tell you that most Veterans tell the VA:  “I had sleep problems in service, now I’m diagnosed with sleep apnea –  isn’t it obvious that they are related?”

I’m here to tell you it’s NOT that  obvious.

That doesn’t mean it has to be difficult.

The 3 hallmark injuries of the Persian Gulf War (PTSD, TBI, MST) have a causative connection with Sleep Apnea.

Diabetes – which is known to be caused by Agent Orange exposure – has a causative connection with Sleep Apnea.

And there are at least 39 medical conditions – common among Veterans – that have a known causative connection or proven correlation with sleep apnea.

Get a good handle on which Path to Service Connection is right for your  Sleep Apnea claim, decide whether and what type of medical opinions you will need to prove service connection, and then move to the next step.

#4:  Pack your Claim with 5-Star Lay and Medical Evidence.

A single sleep apnea sleep study diagnosing sleep apnea is rarely going to be enough to prove your claim.

You’re going to need lay and medical evidence to build the causative chain of symptoms and diagnoses.

You’re going to want to start with your time in service, and  build the lay and medical evidence to show the VA that all or your sleep apnea symptoms and limitations and diagnoses – over whatever duration of time – all share one thing in common they are related to – or had their origin in – your military service.

What do I mean?

If you just had symptoms and limitations of sleep apnea in service and a post-discharge diagnosis, you’re going to have to make it obvious that the symptoms and the diagnosis are related.

If you had a diagnosis of sleep apnea in service AND a post-service diagnosis of sleep apnea … unless the 2 diagnoses are really close together and diagnose the same “type” of sleep apnea, you’re going to need to connect them together for the VA with lay evidence and a medical opinion.

Don’t just use lay evidence.

Don’t just use medical evidence.

Use them both together.  Using one without the other is like running a marathon barefoot – even if you could do it, why would you make it so hard on yourself?

#5: If you can’t work because of your sleep apnea, tell the VA that! 

If your sleep apnea is so bad that you are unable to get a good night’s sleep and be effective at work, you may have difficulty getting or keeping a decent job.

If this is the case, you could be eligible for a 100% rating based on TDIU (Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability).

But here’s the thing: you have to tell the VA that your sleep apnea is impacting your ability to work.

Far too many veterans don’t tell the VA this because they only have a 50% VA disability rating for sleep apnea and think that they cannot get TDIU without a 60% rating for a single condition, or a  70% rating for multiple conditions in addition to that 50% sleep apnea VA disability rating.

This is not correct: what the VA does not tell you is that you are eligible for TDIU no matter what your individual or total disability ratings are. Read this post where I tell you about the difference between schedular TDIU and extra-schedular TDIU.

So, if you are having difficulty finding or keeping a decent paying job because of your sleep apnea, tell the VA that immediately. Submit VA Form 21-8940 as well, so the VA can’t deny you just for not filling out paperwork.

What’s Next?

Like what you read here?

Pick up a copy of my eBook, “Put it to Rest! Your VA Sleep Apnea Claim”.

Click here to get a copy of the VA Sleep Apnea Book – in paperback format.

Or, sign up to get a FREE excerpt of the VA Sleep Apnea eBook:



  1. Dan Sanders

    I served during the Persian Gulf war, took the Pyrostigmine Bromide tablets and the Anthrax vaccine, I retired in 1997, by 2003 i was diagnosed with Diabetes and in 2009 severe sleep apnea. Is there a correlation to the PB tablets and Anthrax vaccines?

    • Chris Attig


      That’s a good question – I will put in on my ‘research list’….in writing the VA Sleep Apnea book, I did not come across any literature that suggested a condition between Sleep Apnea and the PB or Anthrax tablets.

      But all that means is that nobody has published a study on this – you should talk to your doctor to see if there is a connection, there are tests that they may be able to perform.



    Hello. I’m a Disabled Vietnam Veteran. I was recently diagnosed with “Sleep Apnea”. I really enjoyed reading the information regarding the three steps to maximize your sleep apnea VA disability rating. I’ve submitted and filed several claims in the past 12 years. At the current time, I’m at the cross roads of either retiring next year or working until I’m 70. Mentally I feel like 20, but physically, my body is in bad shape due to illnesses suffered while in service and caused by exposures to asbestos and agent orange. If I could win my claim for sleep apnea, I might make it to 100%….if I live long enough. Anyways, all I need is a little helping hand. Sincerely, Jon

  3. darrell mccreary

    I was diagnosed with rhinitis while in the marine. I also developed asthma. Can theses be linked to my sleep apnea?

    • Chris Attig


      Specifically as it relates to you, I have no idea. That is a question that your doctor can answer.

      Generally, however, conditions like asthma and rhinitis tend to restrict the flow of air into the lungs, which is what Obstructive Sleep Apnea is all about…the obstruction of the flow of air into your lungs while you are sleeping.

      Talk to your doctor to see if the asthma and rhinitis conditions from the military are at least as likely as not related to your sleep apnea and, if so, get the Doctor to explain the medical reason in writing, and submit that to the VA as part of your claim.


  4. eric

    I find this very useful

  5. Dennis Borelli

    Let’s see…could my sleep apnea be related to the many nights trying to sleep while listening to bombs? or while working 12 hour shifts on alternating day-swing-midnight schedules for over 2 years? or due to the stress of trying to sleep in barracks situated directly on the flightline with bombers and fighter aircraft?

    • Chris Attig


      Absolutely. There are strong connections between sleep apnea (particularly Central Sleep Apnea) and mental health conditions such as PTSD, GAD or MDD.

      I haven’t seen much research connecting sleep schedule to sleep apnea…but your doctor should be the “final word” on that. If your doctor thinks that is the cause, it’s something he/she should be telling the VBA.


  6. John Everett

    I’d love to know more about how to Maximize my Sleep Apnea VA Disability Rating.


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