VA Disability for Sleep Apnea: Proving Service Connection

Are you a veteran who suffers from sleep apnea?  If so, you may be eligible for VA disability for sleep apnea if you can show a nexus to your military service.  Nexus is simply a connection or series of connections linking two or more things.  Here, nexus is the connection between your service and the current diagnosis of sleep apnea.

How do you prove nexus in a sleep apnea claim?

Sleep apnea is a medically complex disorder.  In fact, there are three distinct kinds of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea.  We can’t possibly cover each of those and the ways to service connect all of them in this one article.  Instead, let’s focus on one type of sleep apnea claim our firm has recently worked on to illustrate just one of the ways to prove service connection of obstructive sleep apnea.

Patient laying down wearing an oxygen mask
If you are a veteran with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you may be entitled to VA disability compensation.
VA Disability for Sleep Apnea through Direct Service Connection

One of the most straightforward ways to achieve service connection of a particular disease or disability is to show that you had that disease or disability while in service.  So, if you developed sleep apnea while in service and still carry that diagnosis, you should be granted service connection.

Sounds easy enough, right?  The problem is that many disabilities that arise in service are not actually diagnosed in service.  We see that quite often with sleep apnea claims.  While you may have been a loud snorer or had other sleep difficulties in service that are normally associated with sleep apnea, if you are like most service members you probably did not undergo a sleep study and get a formal diagnosis before your discharge from service.  Most of the time, a person just “deals with it” for many years until they eventually go to a doctor and undergo testing.  This may be 20 or 30 years after the problems started.

Lay Evidence + Medical Evidence = VA Disability for Sleep Apnea

If that is similar to your situation, how do you show that link (nexus) between what was going on with you during service and the actual diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea you now have?  With lay evidence AND medical evidence.  You will need strong lay evidence that establishes what symptoms you were having in service – loud snoring, apneas (stopped breathing) followed by gasps for oxygen, dry mouth upon waking, daytime fatigue, etc.  You will then need an expert medical opinion that shows these symptoms back then in service were probably sleep apnea even though you had not been diagnosed at the time.  If you get that, then you should be able to establish direct service connection and receive VA disability for sleep apnea.

 Many Roads to VA Disability for Sleep Apnea

If your situation is not like the one above, remember that this is only one of the ways you may be able to win VA disability for sleep apnea.  If you have central sleep apnea or complex sleep apnea, the approach will be a little different since the science is different as well.

Even if yours is obstructive sleep apnea like we discussed here, there are still other ways to service connection other than proving you had sleep apnea in service.  In my next article, I will explain another road to service connection: obstructive sleep apnea as a secondary disability.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, no matter what the VA may tell you, the law does allow for VA disability for sleep apnea.  You will need to follow one of the paths to service connection, which will likely require lay evidence and expert medical evidence.

Unfortunately, VA does not always apply the law correctly.  Many veterans receive wrongful denials when they apply for service connection for sleep apnea.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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