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Reforming Disability Percentages: Sleep Apnea | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Reforming Disability Percentages: Sleep Apnea

In 2001, only 983 veterans were rated for sleep apnea. In 2015, more than 25,000 were. This monumental rise in ratings can be correlated to the current 50% disability rating for sleep apnea that is currently in place. It does not explain, though, the reasons for sleep apnea – or whether it actually is a service connected disability.

Often, the leading cause for sleep apnea is identified as weight gain. Usually seen as service members near retirement, a sleep test can identify if sleep apnea is present and, if so, how severe it is. The usual solution for diagnosed sleep apnea is a CPAP machine, which provides positive pressure and keeps the nasal passageways open, preventing sleep apnea from occurring.

With 13% of the 427,000 veterans receiving disability for sleep apnea, assuming the lowest possible amount, a veteran with no dependents, that is $836.13 per month per veteran, or $46,413,576.30 per month. If these numbers seem high to you, it is because they are astronomical. This has led to an advisory committee calling to question the current disability percentage for sleep apnea.

Ignoring the fact that there is no medically identified link to military service, and that this should in fact call to question the disability payment from the government, the bigger question is the next step. If a CPAP machine keeps the airway open and allows the veteran to sleep, then what in fact is the disability?

CPAPMark Smith, a committee member, asked the hard question: “How is it any different from a pair of glasses? If I don’t use my glasses, my earnings are going to be a hell of a lot less because I’m blind… Once I put them on, no problem.”

This is an interesting perspective to the problem. For years it has been considered that sleep apnea will require the continuous use of an external agent or machine, but that in fact is not very far from contacts or glasses. If vision is not considered a disabling feature, how does this truly differ?

Those with sleep apnea can definitely speak for themselves. I am sure many of them deal with other aspects than just sleep apnea, and finding good sleep is a challenge. With that said though, if over the course of a lifetime, a medication, machine, or agent can be utilized and it will not adversely affect one’s professional development, what is the justification to keep rating this at 50%? For this reason, the VA is looking at reducing the amount overall.

Those individuals who have already been rated or are currently receiving their disability ratings will not be affected by future adjustments; applicants nearing retirement in the coming years will surely find that this is a more difficult argument to have with the VA. It has nothing to do with whether or not veterans deserve the best care, but it should have everything to do with the fact that disability should in fact be for those aspects that are service connected, not life-style connected, and should in fact not continuously pay out when there is a treatment available.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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14 thoughts on “Reforming Disability Percentages: Sleep Apnea

  1. You can not compare Sleep Apnea with vision. Both are disabilities on a different level.

    Having Sleep Apnea prevents one from performing certain jobs because of Safety issues. Also, Sleep Apnea can be Life Threatening if not properly treated. As previously stated, (“PTSD” is not an excuse) I disagree with this statement. Please correct me if I’m way off base here…but isn’t STRESS a contributing factor of weight gain? And weight is a contributing factor to Sleep Apnea.

    Having to wear corrective lenses is not a life threatening issue and does not prevent you from certain employment as does Sleep Apnea. Some Pilots wear corrective lenses…but one diagnosed with Sleep Apnea cannot be a Pilot.

  2. I think there is a valid point on the comparison. This isn’t much harder than one person needing glasses for vision, shoe inserts for flat feet, etc. If chemicals from my MOS/AFSC made my vision go bad, please pay me. IF it can be linked in any mishap related to the military service, please pay me or my fellow service member. CPAPs are provided, should be provided and assistance should be given but I don’t think it’s a military related disability.

  3. So if me falling asleep at the wheel and dying (sleep apnea) is related to my pair of glasses, Give me a new pair….. DUMB COMPARISON

  4. How much did the VA pay you to write this? Or is this your angle to secure a cushy desk job in their Administration for 160K a year?

    Eyeglasses. Breathing apparatus.

    Thanks for listing the colleges you attended, I will be sure to advise everyone I know they are degree mills.


  5. I never had sleep apnea until I was put on a 6 days on and 4 days off schedule and I had to rotate from days to swing to mids and then back to days all over again. I was on this schedule for 4 years. How can you say that sleep apnea is not a service related and has no medically identified link to military service.

    If a CPAP machine keeps the airway open and allows the veteran to sleep, then what in fact is the disability? Well, if this is your argument then you might as well remove all disabilities such as hypertension because anyone w/ hypertension can take a medication to control their blood pressure.

    Sleep apnea is like hypertension, using CPAP will just help control the problem as blood pressure medications help controls high blood pressure. Using CPAP does not eliminate the disorder.. .

  6. Can you sleep on an airplane or a long car ride? How about going camping? Spend the night at a friends house after a party? Endure a power outage? With eye glasses: yes. With OSA: No

    The analogy could more closely be made to someone on dialysis than someone who wears glasses.

    Sleep apnea is real. if untreated it will ruin your health.

  7. I was diagnosed with severe OSA in December 1994, while on my 10th year of active duty. My blood pressure was high (148/98) at an annual checkup. My doctor was concerned, as I was an otherwise very healthy individual. After a series of questions and some tests to attempt to determine the cause of the high blood pressure, he referred me for a sleep study at Lackland AFB, TX.
    The study showed I had an average of 68 hypopneas an hour (a measure of how many times breathing is halted per hour) and an oxygen saturation level of 78% (96-97% is “normal”), thus the “severe” rating.
    My separation/retirement processing began two days after the sleep study and I was medically retired 3 months later. OSA was a relatively new diagnosis and was, at that time, given a 20% disability rating by the VA (now 50%).
    I fought the retirement but did not have the option of remaining on active duty, as the USAF stated “the CPAP disqualified me from global deployment.” I was placed on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL). I was medically separated 17 months later after a follow-up study, where the results were identical to my initial study. 48,000 personnel were separated during the drawdown that year after being on the TDRL for various conditions.
    I would wake unrested with a pounding headache and was always tired for about a year prior to being diagnosed and using the CPAP . I am 6’1″ and weighed 187 pounds when I was diagnosed, very athletic with single digit body fat, so you can disregard your ignorant opinion about weight gain being the leading cause. Your analogy to eye glasses is asinine. I can lose my glasses with no long term consequences to my health. Undiagnosed and/or untreated OSA has been proven to lead to premature death due to congestive heart failure and stroke.
    Please do your research prior to posting. While your military service is worthy of recognition, your uninformed and inaccurate post is not.

  8. I am a therapist who sets up CPAP for service members and all I hear is “how long do I have to wear this before they stop checking for compliance?” or “You know you should tell your husband to get one of these so he can get disability.”
    That’s immoral, zero integrity and down right disgusting. I worked at walter reed for years and those service members who are actually disabled get denied claims or get only 50% because of the low integrity, cheating the system military members that have no morals and only wear their CPAP for the 3 months. This needs to change. I’m a veteran and my husband is currently still serving. To all that do this for benefits, you’re a disgrace.

  9. Ive been in the USAF for 10 years now and I was diagnosed with sleep apnea about 9 months ago and prior to that I was always tired, drinking energy drinks up to 3 or 4 a day, I refused to bring my sleep issues to the militarys eyes due to fear of being removed from the service, but it got to a point where me and my wife could no longer sleep in the same bed due to my excessive snoring, tossing and turning ect. But for the last 9 months since I had my sleep study and started wearing my CPAP my whole life has changed, my attitude and demeanor has improved my blood pressure has dropped since I stopped drinking energy drinks, I never had issues prior to joining but now without my CPAP I cant sleep properly. I can function without my glasses, i can function with my paralyzed diaphragm, but i cant function without sleep.

  10. This article is written from a very ignorant perspective from someone that obviously has no medical background. Yes, sleep apnea “MAY” be caused by lifestyle choices such as obesity, but one can also have apnea and be as thin as a rail. Weight gain can cause it, but it can also be caused by brainwave problems, nighttime seizures, other obstructive problems (pallet/adenoids/tonsils), etc, etc, etc. Simply writing off apnea as a hoax because you name ONE possible cause but ignore the many others, is a half argument.

  11. I can speak to the eyeglass/cpap analogy. The fundamental flaw in the reasoning is that eyeglasses provide instant predictable relief, and the lack of eyeglasses does not compromise overall health.

    Cpap and Bipap machines do not provide instant relief. It can take months and months to get efficacy from a pap, and the lack of a pap can at best make you feel tired during the wake time, and at worse, kill you. For most, it is merely interrupted sleep which causes a sleep hangover the next day, but also still causes long term physical issues, the most prevalent it heart issues.

    For those who are interested, there is a treasure trove of information on the web.

    Bottom line, sleep apnea is 100% debilitating. If you do not believe it, set your clock radio to play loud music for 3 seconds every three minutes all night long. Then see how you do the next day. Then repeat, day after day, week after week, month after month.

    The only thing worse than you driving while suffering from sleep apnea id the guy driving at you that is suffering from sleep apnea.

    15% of the population is afflicted. 90% of them don’t know it.

    50% of all heart patients have sleep apnea. 100% of sleep apnea patients have heart problems.

  12. A great read ! Thanks for sharing that and some very valid points that are even more relevant today.

  13. I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-2010, and was injured during the spring of 2010 by an IED. I met my girlfriend and she told me my severe snoring, so I ended up getting a sleep study while in the Army.

    I was about 192lbs when I got my sleep study done and I was 22 years old and about 5’10. Fast forward 8 years later I am 31 years old and about 170lbs now and still suffer from sleep apnea. Perfectly healthy 31 year old, I average about 4-5 hours of sleep a night. No history of sleep apnea in my family either, from what I am aware I’m the only one in my family that has sleep apnea.

    Four of my friends who were exposed to IED blasts, three of them on foot, and one in a vehicle all have sleep apnea. Some of them gained some weight, but two of them don’t look like your typical OSA patient. Not sure if it is explosions, violence, disrupted sleep pattern, exposure to chemical agents and so forth, it could be a host of a variety of factors or a mixture.

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