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4 Things Veterans Should Know About VA Sleep Apnea Disability Claims

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True story. And I’ve been getting asked these questions for years. On top of that, for about two years, I noticed at my VA Benefits law firm and on the Veterans Law Blog that Veterans of all eras were seeking my help – from Vietnam to Cold War to Afghanistan and beyond – appealing their VA Sleep Apnea disability denials. In short, I was seeing the sleep apnea disability hit the Veterans community like a typhoon! So a couple of years ago, I started trying to figure out WHY the sleep apnea disability was such a problem in the Veterans community. Chris Attig Veterans Law Blog 

cpap-sleep-apnea-001-1662x2048-1.pngThe following is reprinted with the permission of Veterans Law Blog.


Trust me when I tell you this: a VA Sleep Apnea disability diagnosis has little or nothing to do with obesity and neck girth. In the end, I wrote a book about how to claim and service connect the sleep apnea disability through the VA. But I also learned a few extra things that I would like to share with you about the VA Sleep Apnea Disability claim.  And that’s what today’s video is all about:

I asked:

  • Why were so many Veterans seeking service connection for sleep apnea?
  • Why was sleep apnea affecting Veterans across all generations
  • Why was it so hard for so many Veterans to win their VA sleep apnea disability claims?
  • I talked to doctors (cardiologists, pulmonologists, sleep specialists, and more) about the three different types of sleep apnea disability diagnoses.
  • I talked to hundreds of Veterans (from just about every era) and looked at dozens of their C-Files to see if I could figure out why some Veterans won their VA Sleep apnea disability claims, and others did not.
  • I read just about every BVA Decision I could find on VA Sleep Apnea Disability appeals for a whole year.

Do you have questions about how to service connect sleep apnea claims?

You aren’t alone.  Winning a VA claim to service connect sleep apnea is hard.  Winning a VA Sleep Apnea is much harder.  In fact, winning your VA sleep apnea claim can feel like you just led your team to victory in the World Cup.

It’s almost as much work and can often take as much dedication. Veterans ask me more about sleep apnea than any other question about the VA Benefits Law.  Closely followed by PTSD, Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, and TDIU.* Can I service connect sleep apnea without a sleep study in service?

* What if it wasn’t diagnosed until years after service –  can  I service connect it then?* Can Agent Orange cause Sleep Apnea?  What about PTSD?* How do I appeal the VA's denial of my Sleep Apnea? I got so many questions that I began to do a lot of research into how to service connect Sleep Apnea claims and what is happening with Sleep Apnea in the Veteran’s community.

Here are 4 lessons I learned that I want to pass on to you – if you can really learn and understand these lessons, you will have the power to really improve and service connect sleep apnea claims and appeals.
1: Sleep Apnea is a Killer
2: Sleep Apnea is affecting a LOT of Veterans
3: The VA & BVA really struggle to Service Connect Sleep Apnea claims
4: More Veterans Should be Able to Service Connect Sleep Apnea

Lesson #1: Sleep Apnea is a Killer.

There are three things that the human body cannot live – or function – without: Blood/Oxygen, Food/Water, and Sleep.

You can lose a kidney and live a full and complete life.  You can lose your arms and legs and still survive.

But if your body cannot get sleep, you will die.  In fact, sleep deprivation is a common form of torture, as many of us know all too well. That’s what Sleep Apnea does – while you are sleeping, you stop breathing.

You cut off oxygen to the brain and blood, and other body systems break down.

If you are lucky, you start breathing again. Not a lot of VSOs or advocates get this when helping a Veteran file a VA Claim. They think of Sleep Apnea as a disease of the obese, and then they tell them one of the big Fairy Tales about VA Claims.

sleep-apnea-001.jpegLesson #2: Sleep Apnea is affecting a LOT of Veterans.

In the year I spent researching the Sleep Apnea Field Manual, I learned that 39 medical conditions – common among Veterans – can cause or aggravate sleep apnea.

39 Medical Conditions!!

Here are just a few:

Here are a few examples of how Sleep Apnea has affected Veterans from all different eras of service:*. Don D. (he asked me not to use his real name) served mostly during the Cold War and was in the best physical shape of his life – he was an avid weight-lifter.  That is, until he damaged his knees in service and had to get a knee replacement at a military hospital.  After that knee replacement, he could no longer lift weights; the sudden weight gain that resulted caused his obstructive sleep apnea.* Several Desert Storm, OIF, and OEF Clients have had Traumatic Brain Injuries that interfere with how their Nervous System works and, as a result, have a different kind of Sleep Apnea (oversimplified, where the brain’s signals to breathe don’t make it through to the lungs).* Many Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange suffer from sleep apnea.  They are ALL experiencing a “Perfect Storm” of Sleep Apnea problems: breathing disorders, mental health conditions, heart conditions, and diabetes are all causing an epidemic of Sleep Apnea in our Vietnam Veterans.No wonder Sleep Apnea is affecting so many Veterans – sleep apnea can be the result of other disorders or medical conditions.

Lesson #3: The VA & BVA really struggle to Service Connect Sleep Apnea claims.
I believe that the VA and BVA do not take Sleep Apnea seriously.  I think that far too many raters and BVA judges think of sleep apnea as “made-up medicine.”

Perhaps they’ll have to spend a night with someone who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, hear the suffocating snoring, experience the fear that the person will stop breathing altogether, and continue not to take seriously claims for sleep apnea. Or perhaps when they realize that Sleep Apnea is going to be as big an issue for our current generation of Veterans as Agent Orange-related conditions are to Vietnam Veterans, they will take it seriously. Either way, Veterans have an uphill fight to connect their sleep apnea service.

Here’s a Statistic that will shock you:

From April 2013 to April 2014, the BVA denied  76% of Veterans' Sleep Apnea appeals. Translation: 3 out of every 4 of you will see your sleep apnea claims and appeals denied…unless you learn how to prove your Sleep Apnea Claim the right way

Lesson #4: More Veterans Should be Able to Service Connect Sleep Apnea.

I spent nearly a year researching Veterans and their Sleep Apnea claims.  I talked to several doctors and sleep experts.  I read hundreds of cases. I talked to hundreds of Veterans and read their C-Files to see where they went wrong. I learned that to win your Sleep Apnea claim. You are going to have to put your Sleep Apnea Claim together right.

This is where I come in.  I can teach you how to do that.  I can teach you:* HOW to prove your  Sleep Apnea Claim – for any of the three types of Sleep Apnea you have.* The EASIEST Way to prove Sleep Apnea.* WHAT evidence to use and which path to Service Connection to use.* WHERE to get the Lay Evidence that will give REAL POWER to your Sleep Apnea Claim.* To prove your Sleep Apnea is service connected… without a sleep study in the military?* The importance of a medical expert opinion in your Sleep Apnea claim.  (In many cases, a medical expert report or opinion may be crucial to success).* The SPECIFIC EVIDENCE you will need to prove another medical condition caused your sleep apnea* How the VA will rate your sleep apnea condition after granting Service Connection.

How can you learn more about these things?  Check out the Sleep Apnea Field Manual.  There are three ways to get it:

  1. Get an eBook version of the Sleep Apnea Field Manual
  2. Get a paperback real-book version of the Sleep Apnea Field Manual
  3. Check out this VA Sleep Apnea Field Manual Package and get the knowledge you’ll need to take back the power in your VA Sleep Apnea claim.

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