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Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Veterans disability


#1

Hello,

I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea for about 10 years now. I am also a Veteran and attempted to file a claim for disability with the VA. Short version, it was denied because they deemed it not to be service connected , as it was diagnosed approximately 1.5 years after separation from active duty. The VA can approve claims in this fashion if there is sufficient evidence that the condition existed while on active duty. Of course, they generally deny these claims on the first go-around and appeals are required to have it revisited.

This may be hard to explain, or I’m making it harder than it needs to be. I’m at the beginning stages of gathering information on whether sleep apnea can show signs of the disorder years before actually being diagnosed and how to present my appeal to the VA in a way that can prove it existed while I was still on active duty. I’m finding it difficult to find any information on this but with the internet, its almost guaranteed someone has encountered some kind of similar situation.

What should I be looking for in my military medical records?
Are there clinical studies that may touch on this subject that would bolster my appeal?
Is it likely my neurologist would be willing to provide written documentation to corroborate that the condition existed before initial diagnosis?

Anyone with similar experience or someone that might have some resources, please reach out to me.


#2

Hi @BigRed, I know you are going through a lot of red tape for this. I have a few suggestions you might consider.

  1. Prior to your diagnosis, had anyone told you you made snoring or gasping noises during sleep?

  2. If so, when?

  3. If you were told this, had you asked a physician about it?

  4. Had you reported to your physician any of the following, or similar, prior to diagnosis:
    a. Excessive daytime sleepiness or feeling unrefreshed upon awakening?
    b. Morning headaches?
    c. Dry throat or mouth?
    d. Frequent night urination?
    e. Mood swings
    f. Inability to pay attention?

Let’s start here. Also, did you know we have a special section for Veterans? We are also putting together some helpful hints for typical tasks within the VA System.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!

MotherT


#3

Hello and thank you for the repsonse.

  1. I was a single young man then, so didn’t really have people sleeping around me for any length of time.
  2. above
  3. never reported
  4. I have reported headaches that should be well documented in my military records. They attributed it to stress. The other symptoms, not so much…at least not documented.

Keep in mind, when I was in the military it was not encouraged to complain much. So most of the things you’d generally go to the doctor for in civilian life, you just suck up in the military. About the only time we’d hit the doctor was for required checkups or things that required you to be “out of work”. So I’m fighting an uphill battle trying to find a thread to grab onto.


#4

I don’t know much about VA disability, but I’ve been thru the hoops on SSD and we are a Vet family. Apnea in itself is not a condition recognized, because it is treatable. However, the effects of apnea may be. You must have medical records to support the problems. 8.5 years is a long time away from discharge, and they will question the length of time, especially if you don’t have records of having problems in that time.
I have trouble believing the apnea could be a result of your time in service, and they will too. Is there a reason you think it is from your time in service?- not looking for an answer, but you will need to have specific causes in mind.
You may be better off trying for SS disability. Either way you need to have medical records of all tests, treatments and symptoms. You will need to obtain a copy of your records from any Dr that treated you or an effect of it since your symptoms started. That is the whole key, you must have medical records backing your claim before they will even consider it.


#5

Something else just to be aware of… a few years back there was a huge controversy within the VA disability process about sleep apnea. There was a lot of osa being diagnosed just before discharge or retirement. There was a large amount of push back about disability benefits for a condition that if properly treated should not result in work or life restrictions other than using a cpap.

Stars and Stripes had some articles if I remember right.

Getting your treatment costs covered might be one issue. Getting a disability determination another. Good luck.


#6

Thanks for the information. Keep in mind, I was diagnosed 1.5 years after discharge. I understand its an uphill battle trying to link the OSA to my service but its still worth trying. As with most “conditions”, there are signs/symptoms well before a diagnosis. I do not necessarily need to prove that my OSA was caused because of service, just prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the condition existed WHILE on active duty.

Believe me, everyone…and i mean EVERYONE tried to convince me to claim some type of disability during my last 6 months of service. I felt that was fraudulent because I “felt” fine. I was also 26, so who doesn’t feel fine at that age.


#7

Thanks @BigRed @truckerdad57 @pennywheels for your comments. Since I have been involved with the forum here by ASAA, I am myself am learning a great deal from you all about the VA and sleep apnea. It is a very important issue, and I’m happy so many vets participate to tell me these “insider” tips so I can help others in this situation in our great community here.

@BigRed I look forward to your next posting. If I may be of any help to you gathering studies/ research papers, please email MotherT@sleepapnea.org

Thanks for your service!!

MotherT


#8

I echo @MotherT
We need to hear your stories so we can gameplan better paths to improved quality of life.


#9

@MotherT I scheduled an appointment with my Neurologist to ask some questions about diagnosis and how long symptoms can be present before an actual diagnosis. He pretty much gave me a blank stare. I asked him (and his nurse practitioner) a couple different ways and let them know I wasn’t looking for them to write a personal letter or anything…just point me to some research. It was a very uncomfortable appointment, to say the least. They just did not understand what I was asking.

With any disease/condition, there is a likelihood that symptoms existed prior to being officially diagnosed. I’m looking for any “official” research and/or case studies that may allude to this. My angle is that if I can find any medical publications that touch on this subject, it may be a way to link my sleep apnea to my time in service. Currently the VA is taking over a year to produce a copy of my military medical records. So all of this hinges on whether my medical records contain any references to symptoms that can be linked to sleep apnea.

Of course, my disclaimer is that I know im reaching for straws here. This forum has been pretty good about not killing my hopes


#10

Hi @BigRed , Our team met today and is brainstorming ways to assist you. Hang in there a few days and we should have something you can use.

We are very happy to help, and THANK YOU AGAIN for SERVING OUR COUNTRY.

Be on the lookout for an email from me :slight_smile:

MotherT


#11

I found this from 2013, It’s likely still the way they look at it- http://www.military.com/benefits/2013/06/20/va-reconsiders-disability-ratings-for-apnea.html


#12

I have been reading throughout the blog and had a question. I was diagnosed by a private dr. for obstructive airway due to obesity. I’m currently in the guard. Upon return from Iraq in 2010 I had headaches, insomnia, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, can’t stay in task, low energy, and gain of 20lbs, falling asleep going to work etc. This all reported to va as well as during PHAs with the guard and no one recommended anything. The VA put me in sleep meds but then the guard said get off that and take Benadryl. It wasn’t until 2016/17 a friend in the guard convinced me to seek a sleep study because. That’s when I was diagnosed and got a cpap. I know these symptoms were compounded over time but how do I get the va to help me? I have not filed a claim because I don’t know how to articulate the connection other than the civilian doctor claiming it’s obesity that is the cause. When I think obesity is the result of not being able to function with normality due to sleep and energy problems.
Any words o wisdom to share?
V/r, kim