Being a veteran can mean all kinds of problems with sleep. Some of those sleep problems might qualify for VA disability.
Do you find that, no matter how much coffee you drink, you just can’t stay awake during the day? Do you lie awake at night wishing you could fall asleep or terrified to close your eyes because you have such terrible nightmares? Do you find yourself dozing off at random intervals, including at work or while driving?
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be living with a sleep disorder. Read on to learn how to get the right VA disability rating for sleep disturbances and start getting the compensation you deserve.
In This Article About VA Ratings for Sleep Disorders:
- Sleep Disorders the VA Covers
- Sleep Apnea
- Service-Connected Sleep Disabilities
- Secondary Service Connections
- Presumptive Service Connections
- How VA Disability Ratings Work
- VA Ratings for Sleep Apnea
- Ratings for Insomnia
- Ratings for Narcolepsy
- Total Disability for Sleep Disorders
- How to Qualify for VA Disability
- Getting a Diagnosis
- Accessing Your Military Records
- Get Your VA Disability Rating for Sleep Disturbances
Sleep Disorders the VA Covers
There are three basic classes of sleep disorders the VA covers for disability compensation: sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy. We’ll talk more in-depth about each of these conditions in a moment. But it is important to note that a wide variety of more specific conditions can fall under these three categories.
You can get three different kinds of service connections for sleep disorders. These include direct service connections, secondary service connections, and presumptive service conditions. Which kind you get will determine how much evidence you need to provide for your disability claim.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your soft palate falls down and blocks your airways while you sleep. This can cause snoring, as well as choked breathing or long pauses in breathing altogether. More problematically, when your soft palate closes off your airways, you wake up to get breathing again.
Over time, sleep apnea can cause severe sleep deprivation. You may always feel tired, and you may even fall asleep while driving or any other time you sit down. You might also discover that you’re more irritable, that you have difficulty focusing during the day, or that you have a headache or dry mouth in the morning.
Insomnia refers to any time you can’t get to sleep at night. There are a number of things that can fall under that umbrella, starting with simply being unable to get to sleep at night. Nightmares or sleep terrors can also cause insomnia, as can a variety of other factors.
Long-term sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on your daily life. You may have trouble keeping up at your job or in school, and you may experience severe mood swings. Driving may become more dangerous, and you may be at higher risk for mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes you to be extremely drowsy during the day and sometimes have sudden sleep attacks. Narcolepsy can also cause you to lose muscle strength during periods of strong emotion. No one is sure what causes narcolepsy, but genetics can play a factor in the condition.
If you have narcolepsy, you may have difficulty staying awake during the day. You might nod off during work or even conversations, and you may have trouble focusing even when you are awake. You may also experience sleep paralysis or even hallucinations when you’ve falling asleep or waking up.
Service-Connected Sleep Disabilities
Your service connection shows that your sleep disorder is connected to your military service. Many times, you may need to actually be able to point to a specific incident in your service that caused your condition. Your diagnosing doctor should be able to provide a medical nexus saying that your condition was at least as likely as not caused by your service.
In this video, one of our certified VA disability lawyers discusses how sleep disorders can be connected to military service:
The first kind of service connection you can get for sleep disorders is a direct connection. This connection indicates that your sleep disorder began while you were in the service. You’ll need records from your military service showing that you sought treatment for your disorder.
Secondary Service Connections
You may qualify for a secondary service connection if you already have a service-connected condition. A secondary condition says that your sleep disorder is the result of a separate condition you already have a rating for. You can apply for a rating for a secondary condition at the same time as your initial application. The VA will decide on both of them at the same time.
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, nightmares, sleep terrors, and other sleep disturbances. Parkinson’s Disease and many other conditions can also cause sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
Presumptive Service Connections
You may also be able to get a presumptive service connection for your sleep disorder. A presumptive condition means you don’t have to prove a specific service connection to your disorder. If you served in a specific area during a given time or under certain conditions, the VA may automatically assume your condition is connected to your military service.
If you served in the Gulf War any time after August 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 strange conditions doctors can’t diagnose. If you have a medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness or another undiagnosed illness that you’ve spoken to a doctor about, you could get a Gulf War presumption.
How VA Disability Ratings Work
Before we dive into the ratings for different sleep disorders, let’s talk some about how these ratings work. The VA rates each condition between 10 and 100 percent, with ratings being rounded to the nearest 10 percent. This rating reflects how much your rating impacts your ability to live a normal, healthy life.
Your VA disability rating is also the primary thing that determines how much money you’ll receive from the VA each month. The VA will evaluate how severe your disability is and which symptoms on a certain scale you display. They will give you a rating based on your symptoms; if you have multiple conditions, those will be combined to give you an overall rating.
VA Ratings for Sleep Apnea
There are four different tiers on which the VA rates sleep apnea. The lowest of these is a 0 percent rating, in which you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea, but no symptoms. If this is your only rated condition, you will not receive any monthly compensation from the VA.
If you have chronic daytime sleepiness due to your sleep apnea, the VA will give you a base rating of 30 percent. If you have to use a CPAP machine to manage your sleep apnea, you will receive a rating of 50 percent. If you have chronic respiratory failure or have to have a tracheostomy due to your sleep apnea, you’ll get a rating of 100 percent.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about sleep apnea VA disability ratings.
Ratings for Insomnia
The VA usually rates insomnia on the same scale as mental disorders since the two are often linked. In many cases, insomnia gets rated as a secondary service connection. Even if your insomnia is due to a physical condition, rather than a mental one, it may still be rated on the mental disorders scale.
You may receive a rating of 0 percent, 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent for your insomnia. If you have mild symptoms or symptoms that only disturb you occasionally, you may get a 10 or 30 percent rating. If your insomnia is so severe that you cannot function normally in your life, you may get a 70 percent or even 100 percent rating.
Ratings for Narcolepsy
The VA recognizes that narcolepsy severely impacts your ability to live a normal life. For this reason, they rate it on the same scale as a minor seizure disorder. Both can incapacitate you for a short period of time and can impact your ability to drive or work, but depending on your situation, you may still be able to keep a job.
In general, narcolepsy gets a base rating of 80 percent from the VA. This rating is high enough that in addition to your rating, the VA will consider whether you have family members depending on you when determining your compensation amount. If you have especially severe symptoms, you may also be able to get a 100 percent disability rating for narcolepsy.
Total Disability for Sleep Disorders
Depending on how severe your condition is, you may be able to get a total disability based on individual unemployability rating from the VA. In essence, this rating declares that your sleep disturbance is so severe that you cannot work at all. A TDIU rating is the equivalent of a 100 percent disability rating.
In addition to up to $3,332.06 per month from the VA, depending on how many dependents you have, a 100 percent rating can get you a number of other benefits. You may be able to get a housing grant, an automobile allowance, or a clothing allowance to help you cover your expenses. You may also be able to get space available travel benefits and a free pass to all national parks.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
How to Qualify for VA Disability
In order to qualify for VA disability compensation, you must meet three basic criteria. First, you must have an official diagnosis from your condition. This may come from any VA-approved doctor, including a military doctor or simply your family doctor or primary care physician.
As we’ve mentioned, you must also be able to prove a connection between your condition and your military service. Except in the case of presumptive conditions, you must be able to indicate a specific incident or set of circumstances in your military service that caused your condition. Your doctor will be able to provide a medical nexus saying your condition was at least as likely as not the result of your service incident.
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Getting a Diagnosis
If you believe you may have a sleep disorder, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. It’s a good idea to write down a list of your symptoms and how often they occur if possible. If you have a partner, ask them to make some notes about any sleep disturbances they notice, including snoring or breathing cessation while you sleep.
Your doctor may ask you to undergo a sleep study to determine exactly what’s happening with your sleep disturbances. You may need to go to a sleep center and spend the night there while technicians monitor your breathing and other vital signs. There may also be some additional tests your doctor may need to run to provide you with a diagnosis.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Accessing Your Military Records
During your VA disability application, you’ll need to get hands-on several of your military records. You’ll need your service record at the least to prove your service connection or that you meet qualifications for a presumptive condition. You may also need to get your military medical records to prove that your condition started while you were in the military.
The first place to start retrieving your military documents is through your eBenefits account. Many of these documents can be accessed through the records portal in this account. If you can’t get the records you need there, you can always visit your local VA office for help.
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, The Veteran’s Firm. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to start getting the compensation you deserve.
Those two conditions do have different rating codes, so while technically possible, your VA doctor will probably only give you a rating on one. There are other conditions that may be secondary to either of those, though, so your symptoms might alsoget ratings in addition to your sleep problems.
Those two conditions could both be direct-connected. Just because you have more than one condition doesn’t mean one has to be direct and the other a secondary connection. Let’s talk and sort out the best way to present your case to the VA.