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Things You'll Need
Research Your Claim
VA Benefits for Sleep Apnea
as a service
connection to PTSD
Brett Valette, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Speak With A
Veterans Law Attorney
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6847 Sleep Apnea Syndromes (Obstructive, Central, Mixed):
Chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale,
or; requires tracheostomy - 100%
Requires use of breathing assistance device such as
continuous airway pressure (CPAP) machine - 50%
Persistent day-time hypersomnolence - 30%
Asymptomatic but with documented sleep disorder breathing - 0%
Unless the veteran has a solid diagnosis of OSA while on active duty,
the OSA condition may be impossible to claim as service connected.
Snoring may be a sign of OSA or it may not. OSA is a serious health condition
and more information is brought into our knowledge banks every day. To be
awarded a benefit for OSA will require a medical record that supports your claim
that you had OSA during your military service.
A statement from your spouse or a buddy isn't likely to carry any weight. If your OSA
has been diagnosed well after your military service has ended but you've heard how
lucrative the benefit is (50% if you use a CPAP) you should think long and hard
before you apply for the award. If you were a chronic heavy snorer while on
active duty, can you document that? Did you ever make a sick call because of chronic
daytime sleepiness? Have you ever been at fault in an accident where you fell asleep
at the wheel of your vehicle? During any hospitalization or surgical treatment,
did a health care provider make a note to your record about your
airway obstruction or a breathing problem during anesthesia?
Once you're sure that you can prove your case, you may want to file that claim.
If you don't believe that you have the evidence you'll need, consider delaying any action
while you attempt to have a nexus letter written. That could require a formal IME that you'll
pay for out of your own pocket.If you're a heavy snorer today, whether or not you are able
to make a service connection and receive a VA benefit, get a sleep study done.
Sleep studies are now available for you to have it all done in the privacy of your own
bedroom. You no longer must spend a night in a sleep lab...you can take a
small piece of equipment home (a headband sort of arrangement) and wear it to bed.
When you return it to your doctor the data gathered will be analyzed for a diagnosis.
Using a CPAP may reduce the incidence of adult onset diabetes, heart disease,
strokes and many other of the conditions that come to us as we age.
Not only that...the daytime sleepiness you experience from the lack of a
good nights sleep will be much less severe.Medicare and most
insurers will pay for the home sleep study and the CPAP you may need afterwards.
It's well worth your time.
in Veterans With PTSD
Do you have a rating for PTSD? Do you also have a positive diagnosis of OSA?
Do you use a CPAP?
You may be eligible for OSA service connected benefits as a secondary condition
even if you don't have a service medical record of OSA.
Consider that many of the medications that are used to treat sleep disturbances
or mental health conditions may have an effect on your sleep patterns. If your OSA
was diagnosed after you started taking medicines to aid your sleep or to treat some
mental health conditions, you might want to consider filing for OSA as secondary
to the service connected PTSD.
Before you decide to do that, review the side effects of the medicines and
be ready to offer a sound reasoning for your claim. Once you're sure that the
medicines you take cause or aggravate your OSA, file for the appropriate benefit.
CPAP Therapy Reduces Nightmares in Veterans With PTSD and Sleep Apnea
A new study suggests that CPAP therapy reduces nightmares in
veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Results show that the mean number of nightmares per week fell
significantly with CPAP use, and reduced nightmare frequency
after starting CPAP was best predicted by CPAP compliance.
Filing For OSA as a Secondary Condition
Heavy, oxygen depleting snoring may be something you knew about long ago.
Your spouse may have complained. Your buddies may have commented on
your heavy snoring while you were in your bunk.
You may have suffered overwhelming daytime sleepiness for years.
Now, how do you convince VA that the OSA had its origin while you were on active duty?
Sometimes, you can't.
Maybe your OSA didn't manifest on active duty. Maybe the condition crept up on
you as you were treated for other maladies like diabetes or PTSD.
No matter what your history is, it's worth considering whether or not you should file
a claim for OSA. If you left the service 20 years ago and you've
been in relatively good health
but gained weight over the years and now you snore,
you probably aren't service
connected. If the medicine you take for your PTSD or any other condition
contributes to your snoring and gasping for breath as
you sleep, you may have a legitimate claim.
No matter what the basis of the claim,
service connection for OSA is complex.
You have to use precise language. For example, if you claim OSA as secondary to
PTSD, you'll probably lose. If you claim OSA as secondary to the soporific effects of
the medicines that doctors prescribe for your PTSD and you provide evidence that the
medicine you take can cause, contribute to or aggravate OSA, you have a good claim.
Read the BVA appeals we'll list for you here. Learn from the mistakes and triumphs of others.
Avoid the errors and duplicate the good work of those who have gone before you.
Service connection for obstructive sleep apnea, claimed as secondary to
service-connected PTSD, is denied. "the most persuasive medical
opinion evidence weighs against the claim"
The appeal for service connection for obstructive sleep apnea, as secondary to
diabetes mellitus, is granted. "Resolving all doubt in favor of the Veteran, as is
required by law, the Board finds that the Veteran's obstructive sleep apnea is
aggravated by his service-connected diabetes mellitus. As such, the Board
concludes that the Veteran's claim for entitlement to service connection for
obstructive sleep apnea, as secondary to his service-connected diabetes mellitus,
is warranted. Hanson v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 512 (1991)."
Key words may be granted, apnea, OSA, PTSD, secondary, denied, and so on.
Prepare to spend hours at this task.
Nobody will do this for you. If you want to prevail, you must do it yourself.