Sleep problems are common among veterans. However, thankfully some sleep problems might qualify for VA disability.
Maybe you find that, no matter how much coffee you drink, you just can’t stay awake during the day. Or your sleep is regularly delayed and interrupted by ruthless nightmares.
If your daily life is affected by your inability to stay awake or fall asleep, you may be living with a sleep disorder. Learn how to get the right VA disability rating for sleep disturbances and start getting the compensation you deserve.
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Table of contents
- VA ratings for sleep apnea
- VA ratings for insomnia
- VA ratings for narcolepsy
- Service-connected sleep disabilities
- Secondary service connections for sleep disorders
- Presumptive service connections for sleep disorders
- How VA disability ratings work
- Total disability for sleep disorders
- Get your VA disability rating for sleep disturbances
The VA offers disability compensation for three basic classes of sleep disorders: sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy. These three conditions encompass a wide variety of specific sleep problems.
VA ratings for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your soft palate falls down and blocks your airways while you sleep. This can cause several issues while sleeping like snoring, choked breathing, and long pauses between breaths. This often results in waking up to continue breathing, which does not lead to a restful night’s sleep.
Over time, sleep apnea can cause severe sleep deprivation. This results in feeling constantly exahsted. Some people who suffer from sleep apnea will fall asleep involuntarily throughout the day. This can make activities like driving dangerous endeavors. Lack of sleep can lead to a number of other issues as well, all of which can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work or to simply enjoy daily life.
The VA rates sleep apnea under diagnostic code 6847.
|Chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention or cor pulmonale (heart failure in the right ventricle of the heart) or Requires tracheostomy||100%|
|Requires use of breathing assistance device such as CPAP machine||50%|
|Persistent day-time hypersomnolence (signficant sleepiness)||30%|
|Asymptomatic but with documented sleep disorder breathing||0%|
VA ratings for insomnia
Insomnia involves either having trouble falling asleep or having difficulty remaining asleep. There are a number of things that can prevent getting a healthy amount of sleep per-night, starting with simply being unable to fall asleep for seemingly no reason. Nightmares or sleep terrors can also cause insomnia, as can a variety of other factors. Most people have experienced it at some point in their lives. However, chronic insomnia can have a significant effect on your well-being.
Long-term sleep deprivation can cause you to have trouble keeping up at your job and impact how you treat your loved ones. Driving may become dangerous, and you could be at a higher risk of developing mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
Since the VA doesn’t have a specific rating for insomnia, it assigns a closely-related diagnostic code (called an analogous rating) in the Schedule of Ratings for mental disorders.
VA ratings for narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to stay awake during the day. You might nod off during work or even during conversations, and you may have trouble focusing when you manage to stay awake. It can also cause you to lose muscle strength during periods of strong emotion. Those with the disorder can even experience sleep paralysis or have hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up.
The VA rates narcolepsy under diagnostic code 8108 and uses the same criteria it does for epilepsy petit mal, which is diagnostic code 8911
Service-connected sleep disabilities
First, you will have to prove that you have a sleep disorder. It is best to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your concerns. It’s also a good idea to write down your symptoms and how often they occur. If you have a partner, ask them to make some notes about any sleep disturbances they notice, including snoring or breathing problems.
Sometimes your sleep will need to be professionally evaluated. This is often done through a sleep study. Your sleep will be monitored at a VA sleep clinic or you will be given equipment to monitor your sleep at home. There is no specific way to pass or fail a VA sleep study. It is merely a way to assess your sleep habits, to properly understand your condition’s severity.
Once you have received a formal diagnosis, you will need to prove service-connection. This requires sending in copies of relevant military records to support your claim. Depending on the situation, you may be required to point to the specific incident that caused your condition.
Go to your eBenefits account to request copies of your records. If you can’t get the records you need there, you can always visit your local VA office for help.
Secondary service connections for sleep disorders
You may qualify for a secondary service connection if your sleep disorder is caused by a different service-connected condition.
There are a number of conditions that can get you a secondary service connection for a sleep disorder. PTSD, anxiety, and depression can all cause insomnia. Parkinson’s Disease and many other service-connected conditions can also cause sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
Presumptive service connections for sleep disorders
You may get a presumptive service connection for your sleep disorder. Having a presumptive condition means you don’t need to prove a specific service connection to receive compensation for your disorder.
If you served in the Gulf War any time after Aug. 2, 1990, you may be able to get a presumptive service connection for your sleep disorder. A number of Gulf War veterans have come home with conditions doctors can’t diagnose. If you have a medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness, the VA might presume service-connection.
How VA disability ratings work
The VA rates each condition between 10% and 100%, with ratings being rounded to the nearest 10%. This rating reflects the overall impact your symptoms have on your ability to live a normal, healthy life.
The higher your rated, the more compensation you receive. Your rating will be based on the severity of your symptoms; if you have multiple conditions, those will be combined to give you an overall rating. A 10% rating will grant you $152.64 a month and a 100% rating will bring in $3,332.06.
Total disability for sleep disorders
Depending on how impactful your condition is, you may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) benefits. Even people with debilitating conditions may not meet the VA’s 100% rating criteria for TDIU. However, if your sleep disorder is so severe that you cannot work at all, you might qualify for the same compensation as a 100% rating. If you have at least a 60% rating for a single condition or a combined rating of at least 70% including one single disability rated at least 40%.
Get your VA disability rating for sleep disturbances
Sleep disturbances can have a serious impact on every area of your life, from your relationships to your career. Getting the right VA disability rating for sleep disabilities can help get you the compensation you deserve. Talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis and start the process of applying for VA disability.
If you’d like help submitting or appealing a VA disability claim, get in touch with us at Woods and Woods. You don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to start getting the compensation you deserve.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Those two conditions do have different rating codes, so while technically possible, your VA doctor will probably only give you a rating for one.
Those two conditions could be independently direct-connected. However, insomnia is often a secondary condition to PTSD. You will likely need to speak to professionals to determine if there is a connection, or if they are separate issues.