As awareness is on the rise, more and more people are learning about sleep apnea and the importance of being properly diagnosed and treated. Obstructive sleep apnea is the partial or full obstruction of a person’s airway, which prevents proper breathing. The sufferer can literally stop breathing a few seconds to minutes, and to make matters worse the frequency can be as little as five to over 30 times in any given hour during the course of a night’s sleep. It is currently estimated that anywhere from 50 to 70 million Americans have sleep apnea. And of that number over 114,000 are veterans who draw compensation for this condition. This number increased from only 983 in 2001. So why do so many veterans draw disability benefits for sleep apnea?
What Classifies as Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, disability compensation for sleep apnea is over $1.2 billion dollars. Of note, what is interesting is the fact that 88 percent of veterans who draw disability benefits are at a 50-percent rating. What exactly does that mean? Well when a diagnosis of sleep apnea is confirmed for either someone on active duty or determined that there is a connection back to time of service, the VA requires this person to be given a 50-percent disability rating. This is true even if the veteran is prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) as his or her treatment option.
It was back in 1996 when the VA first started to compensate for sleep apnea as per the ratings determined by the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). This rating was based on studies that estimated ‘average impairment in earnings loss,’ without taking into account treatment. When a veteran is classified with a 50-percent disability rating, it can increase monthly income to the tune of about $810, at the very least. If the individual is married and/or has children or dependents, this amount could be higher.
There is a lot of debate and controversy about whether or not, veterans should be drawing disability for sleep apnea when being treated with CPAP. Here’s why. If the CPAP is decreasing symptoms such as daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, memory loss and lowering predisposition to life-threatening conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, should the individual still be classified as having a disability?
During a public hearing of the VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, Jonathan Hughes, a policy consultant for the VA’s compensation service, shared that 13 percent of about 427,000 veterans who served after 9/11 currently draw VA disability compensation. These veterans are considered to have service-connected sleep apnea.
Hence, the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking a closer look at current sleep apnea disability ratings. Even if the classification changes in the future, veterans who are currently drawing disability benefits for sleep apnea would not change or be reduced. And for that matter, the same could be said of those individuals who would be waiting on disability decisions before any changes went into effect. To change what monetary value they are receiving is actually against the law.
If you have or suspect you might have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.