First of all, it matters if you are still active in in-service in your military branch. If you are, then good for you because you will be eligible to be treated for OSA and allowed to remain active in your MOS if you are not in harm's way / deployed / hazardous duty, etc.
If you're active and diagnosed. We'll be talking about the treatment of sleep disorders after you retire. Sleep apnea benefits are excellent if you are still active. Basically, the military is responsible for treating you like any other illness. The problem is when you leave service...
HOW DOES THE VA DIAGNOSE SLEEP APNEA?
Sometimes sleep apnea is diagnosed during a soldier’s active duty or sometimes it is a secondary issue to other war-service-related problems.
Either way, next to truckers, the veteran's group is one of the highest groups of sleep apnea sufferers.
So diagnosis is vital.
Service-related obstructive sleep apnea sometimes comes after a moderate sleep apnea diagnosis after retiring from service.
This is difficult to prove, but it's the VA's responsibility to help the retired service member diagnose, treat, and file a disability claim on behalf of the member.
If your diagnosis is "service-connected, then you may be eligible for disability compensation through the VA.
But don't jump for joy yet! Proving a service-connected disability like sleep apnea is extremely difficult.
So... Here's how the VA diagnoses sleep apnea according to the specialty law firm, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick of Providence, RI:
"To begin, let’s first discuss what makes a sleep apnea diagnosis valid in the eyes of the VA. In order to confirm a sleep apnea diagnosis for compensation rating purposes, VA requires that a sleep study be conducted.
If you have been previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, but have not undergone a sleep study, VA will not consider that sole diagnosis enough evidence to verify eligibility for compensation.
Those who are already service-connected for sleep apnea, but did not undergo a sleep study, will likely be required to have one conducted in order to confirm the diagnosis for benefit purposes.
There is, however, an exception to this rule; those who have been service-connected for sleep apnea for at least 10 years do not need to undergo a sleep study to maintain their rating.
Note: VA has a duty to assist veterans in obtaining necessary evidence to prove their claim. This means that if no sleep study has been conducted to confirm your diagnosis, VA has a duty to assist you in scheduling an examination."
The next step in the process for military sleep apnea sufferers who seek disability benefits is to get a sleep study and have their condition "rated for disability".
Sleep Apnea Secondary To PTSD Is Huge!
PTSD is by far the biggest secondary connector to sleep apnea for veterans, according to recent VA statistics.
PTSD affects sleep, mental health, libido, diabetes, GERD, and cardiovascular health.
That's why it's vital to consult with a sleep doctor either while you're in-service or recently separated from service.
All service members are eligible for excellent benefits and very often some type of sleep apnea disability benefits.
Here Is The VA Rating For Sleep Apnea
(You'll Need This Information To File A Claim For Military Sleep Apnea Benefits)
So here's the deal...
You must prove that your sleep apnea is caused by your military service, not an easy task.
However, there are several recent military sleep apnea disability cases that have to wonder their way through the courts successfully.
You can read about one of the successful appeals from 2018 that won the plaintiff serious sleep apnea disability benefits here.
You should also keep in mind the systems listed on the VA sleep apnea info-graphic below.
Keep the chart handy and refer to it if you have questions about symptoms.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is officially verified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) is currently the only verified VOSB in the state of Alaska doing business in the medical arena.
Recognition of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform who made the transition to small business owners first began with Public Law 106-50 or the Veteran-owned small business. The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999.
The purpose of the Act was to establish new assistance programs for Veterans that were small business owners or planning to make the transition to owning their own business. The Act also established an annual government-wide goal of not less than 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for participation by small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. This law was a tremendous win for Veterans.
Many Veterans start their business careers later in life and recognition and set-aside programs can be the difference between success and failure.
You may be wondering why you received a Veterans Choice Card in the mail.
On November 5, 2014, the Department of Military and Veterans affairs began the implementation of the Veteran's Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA) of 2014. The program's goals are to help alleviate the difficulties veterans have been having in finding adequate and expedient health care.
Problems veterans were experiencing included long wait times to receive care at VA-owned medical facilities and difficulty traveling to these health facilities that were far from their homes. The Veterans Choice Program allows veterans to find care at non-VA medical facilities as long as they meet certain criteria. To meet the criteria, certain situations must apply to you:
A local VA medical facility tells you that you need to wait more than 30 days from your preferred date or the date medically determined by your physician
Your current residence is more than 40 miles from the closest VA health care facility (as dictated by a straight line drawn on a map, and not actual road miles)
You need to travel by plane or boat to the VA medical facility closest to your home
You face an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to a VA medical facility based on the presence of a body of water (including moving water and still water) or a geologic formation that cannot be crossed by the road
If you meet these criteria you may be eligible for a "Choice Card." Once you receive your "Choice Card" you can begin to search for a non-VA health care provider of your choice. However, you still must find an approved care provider in your community. If the health care provider you have chosen isn't a preferred provider by the VA, they will assist you with recommendations of preferred providers and work with you to schedule an appointment.
To find out if you qualify and to schedule an appointment, call 1-866-606-8198.
For more information on the Veterans Choice Program, visit here, or check out the video below from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans and Sleep Disorder Care
Sleep disorders are more common among returning veterans than they are in the general public. One study found that approximately 54% of military personnel that have served since September 11, 2001, have reported experiencing insomnia, compared to 22% reported by civilians.
There are a number of contributing factors that makes reports of insomnia and other sleep disorders more prevalent among veterans than civilians such as:
The stress of deployment and combat
Irregular work shift schedules both during deployment and at home
Difficulty adjusting to civilian life once back home
Service-related injuries & illnesses including traumatic brain injury
Symptoms of PTSD
Another study published in the scientific journal SLEEP found that active-duty military personnel had a high prevalence of sleep disorders and a high rate of short sleep durations. The study was based on 725 polysomnograms (PSGs) conducted at the Madigan Army Medical Center in 2010. Some highlights from the study show:
85.1% had a clinically relevant sleep disorder
51.2% had obstructive sleep apnea
24.7% had insomnia
The mean sleep duration was 5.74 hours per night with 41.8% having less than 5 hours of sleep per night
58% had medical comorbidities that included
Mild traumatic brain injury (12.8%)
These numbers and statistics show just how critical it is that active-duty personnel and veterans seek treatment for sleep disorders. Fortunately, with the Veterans Choice Program, finding quality care that is both timely and convenient is now easier than ever for veterans with sleep disorders.
Replacing a Lost Veterans Choice Card
We understand that sometimes people misplace or lose their Choice Card. It's okay! Just give us a call at 866-606-8198, and we will send a new card to your last known address. Please understand that for security purposes and the protection of Veterans and VA, TriWest cannot accept an updated address at the same time we process a request for a card replacement.
To update your address because you have moved or otherwise changed your primary residence, please fill out the VA Form 10-10EZR to update your information, contact your Enrollment Coordinator at your nearest VA medical facility, and/or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387).
Alaska Veterans Information
For veterans living in Alaska, getting a "1st Choice" card is much easier than in others states as there is no VA-owned hospitals in the state. This means that veterans that apply for the card will more than likely qualify to receive help from the program and be able to find a sleep disorder center near them.
The Alaska Sleep Clinic is a contracted network provider with the VA through TriWest. If you are a veteran living in Alaska and believe that you are suffering from a sleep disorder, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic today to schedule a free 10-minute phone consultation and receive rapid access to the highest quality care in the state for diagnosing and treating sleep disorders.