What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts during sleep. There are three main types of sleep apnea, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form in which the throat muscles relax
  • Central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles controlling breathing
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome, which occurs when someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, tiredness after waking, gasping for air during sleep, and episodes in which one stops breathing during sleep. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, particularly the more severe ones like gasping for breath during sleep, you should talk to your doctor.

The causes of sleep apnea are diverse, but among veterans the most common causal factors relate to excess weight, use of alcohol or sedatives, smoking, or other medical conditions like heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, or type 2 diabetes. These conditions and habits often develop in service and over time contribute to the development of sleep apnea by affecting the body’s respiratory system and causing damage to the upper respiratory tract. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has also been found to contribute to the development of sleep apnea, which is why many veterans are granted service connection for their sleep apnea secondary to PTSD. Due to the prevalence of these habits and conditions among veterans, sleep apnea is the most common respiratory-related condition claimed for VA disability compensation, making up nearly 30 percent of all claimed respiratory conditions in 2020.

How The VA Rates Sleep Apnea

Under 38 CFR § 4.97, the VA rates sleep apnea based on the severity of the condition and/or the type of treatment required.

Diagnostic Code 6847: Sleep Apnea Syndromes (Obstructive, Central, Mixed)

  • 100 – Chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale, or; requires tracheostomy
  • 50 – Requires use of breathing assistance device such as continuous airway pressure (CPAP) machine
  • 30 – Persistent day-time hypersomnolence
  • 0 – Asymptomatic but with documented sleep disorder breathing

Veterans who are unable to work due to their sleep apnea are eligible for a total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating no matter what their total schedular disability rating is. A TDIU rating pays veterans at the 100 percent compensation rate so long as they are unable to follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of their service connected condition(s).

Get Help With Your VA Claim

If you are a veteran with sleep apnea who is trying to get service connection for your condition, or would like assistance increasing your current schedular disability rating, our experienced veterans disability attorneys are ready to help. Please contact our office today for a free claim evaluation.