Sleep Apnea VA Ratings: How To Get One & What They Mean

Sleep Apnea VA rating

Sleep apnea VA claims are among the most common types of claims for which VA assists veterans in their battle for disability compensation. The three types of sleep apnea — obstructive, central, and complex — are among the most common respiratory disabilities that are service-related, according to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) in the 2017 Annual Benefits Report.

According to statistics of VBA, VA awarded veterans 282,323 ratings for sleep apnea connected to service. In the fiscal year 2017, these claims accounted for 26.67% of all body-related disabilities, and this number is increasing. 

However, those numbers are of awarded claims. In fact, most disability claims for sleep apnea are denied by VA.

The good news is, it’s still possible for your claim to succeed. In a moment, you’re about to find out the exact VA disability ratings for sleep apnea in 2021, what kinds of sleep apnea are recognized by VA, how to make a successful sleep apnea claim, and even how to claim sleep apnea on a secondary basis. 

What Are The Current Sleep Apnea VA Disability Ratings?

VA uses four specific ratings for sleep apnea: 100%, 50%, 30%, and 0%. Under 38 C.F.R. § 4.97, Code 6847, you should be able to find a schedule for disability ratings by VA concerning the respiratory system and sleep apnea.

0% VA Disability Sleep Apnea Rating

This is the lowest disability rating for sleep apnea, and does not qualify you for compensation. Although you aren’t able to get monthly benefits on this, you can still get other benefits like VA healthcare.

30% VA Disability Sleep Apnea Rating

This rating is warranted when frequent daytime sleepiness is present. Veterans with a 30% VA sleep apnea rating usually suffer from frequent daytime sleepiness (the scientific terms are hypersomnolence or hypersomnia).

So, if you rarely have a good night’s sleep and often wake up at night, forcing you to nap all day long or feel restless, you might fit into this category. 

50% VA Disability Sleep Apnea Rating

This rating is warranted when the veteran needs a breathing device, like a continuous airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Getting this rating can affect your total combined rating dramatically. 

100% VA Disability Sleep Apnea Rating

This disability rating is the most serious one, which is given to veterans suffering from chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention, as well as if the person needs a tracheostomy. Such cases are extremely severe and rare.

Sleep Apnea Kinds Recognized By VA

The three different kinds of sleep apnea are recognized by VA, all of which can pose a serious threat on the veteran’s normal life and their ability to get a good job and keep it.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This type is the most frequently occurring of the three sleep breathing disorders, and it takes place when the muscles of your throat relax during sleep, blocking the airway either partially or completely, reducing or preventing breathing. 

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

This disorder appears when your brain fails to send signs to the muscles to properly breathe, causing the person’s breathing to stop and start again multiple times during sleep. CSA may be caused by obesity, heart disorders, stroke, and conditions of the cervical spine.

Mixed (Complex) Sleep Apnea

This type of sleep apnea is a combination between the symptoms of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

The term “apnea” means a temporary stoppage of breathing. Episodes of “hypopnea” or shallow, slow breathing, are also involved in the diagnosis. Some veterans have mild sleep apnea, but for others, it could be disabling or even fatal. 

Patients can frequently stop breathing each night for various time lengths and up to hundreds of times, resulting in a major oxygen deficiency in the body. There are some serious and potentially fatal consequences of untreated sleep apnea, including stroke, brain damage, heart disease, and insulin resistance.

How Do You Qualify To Claim Sleep Apnea?

To be entitled, you need to provide VA with proof and documentation for these three things:

  • A sleep apnea diagnosis with a sleep study by a qualified medical professional.
  • Proof that your sleep apnea started or worsened due to your active service.
  • A connection (nexus) between your sleep apnea and the in-service event.

It’s a plus to have an in-service diagnosis of SA in your military records. You shouldn’t find it difficult to make VA pursue your claim and get you the deserved benefits.

But the majority of veterans aren’t diagnosed with sleep apnea during their service, and thus, VA doesn’t require an in-service diagnosis. If this is the case for you, you need to provide VA with a sleep study with a current SA diagnosis.

You also need to provide your service-connection link, as you’re about to find out…

How Can Sleep Apnea Be A Service-Connected Disability?

After having your diagnosis, you should now connect it to your military service. In other words, filling the gaps from your active service time until now, showing strong medical evidence. Include credible lay statements, vocational reports, buddy statements, basically all the facts that prove to VA that your sleep apnea is connected to your service.

You can do this by either direct or secondary service connection. You need to prove by reason to VA that your current sleep apnea is firmly correlated to your military service.

Is It Possible To Claim Sleep Apnea As A Secondary Disability?

Since there are several medical conditions that are linked to sleep apnea, yes, you can claim sleep apnea as a secondary disability to a service-related condition that’s already been granted. 

For any claim on a secondary basis, establishing service connection needs sufficient evidence to show that there is a current disability (sleep apnea, in your case), and that this disability was caused or aggravated by the service or closely connected to it.

Bottom Line

Although sleep apnea is a mild condition most of the time, it can have extremely serious effects that prevent veterans from having the good life they deserve. But luckily, if you have reasonable evidence and can prove that your condition is service-related, you can claim your sleep apnea and get a VA disability rating that ranges from 0% to 100%. 

This means you will be entitled to benefits to treat your condition. You can even claim sleep apnea on a secondary basis and see what other benefits you can get. Though the whole process of making your claim can be difficult, if done right, it pays off and can help make your life as a veteran way easier! 


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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