Sleep Apnea VA Rating: A Comprehensive Guide for Veterans

Sleep apnea, an easily overlooked but serious sleep disorder, has garnered significant attention in veteran circles due to its prevalence, impact on quality of life, and entanglement with the VA rating system. The Veterans Affairs (VA) rating system is crucial in determining the level of disability benefits a veteran receives and serves as a lifeline for many who have found their health compromised due to service. Understanding how the VA rating for this condition works is crucial for veterans who have received a sleep apnea diagnosis.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disruptive sleep disorder characterized by periodic cessations in breathing due to an obstruction in the airway or a signal fault from the brain to the muscles controlling breathing. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed sleep apnea, which is a combination of both OSA and CSA. Symptoms include snoring, fatigue, morning headaches, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating. A sizable number of sufferers remain unaware of their condition, attributing their excessive daytime sleepiness to poor sleep habits or age. Patients often require a sleep study to receive an accurate diagnosis and determine exactly which type of sleep apnea they have.

Understanding the VA Rating System

The VA disability rating system was instituted post-World War I, designed to compensate veterans for impairments caused by injuries or illnesses acquired during or exacerbated by military service. The VA determines the rating through a criteria-based system, awarded in 10% increments, with 100% representing total disability. Sleep apnea, like other conditions, has its ratings determined based on the severity of symptoms and the impact on daily activities. For veterans, a solid understanding of this system plays a pivotal role in securing the necessary VA disability benefits.

Sleep Apnea in Veterans

Sleep apnea is strikingly common among veterans and can be linked to various service-related factors, such as traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obesity trends in veterans. VA reports indicate tens of thousands of veterans diagnosed with sleep apnea, with an upward trajectory in diagnosis. Known risk factors include obesity, smoking, aging, and service-related injuries or mental health conditions.

How VA Rates Sleep Apnea

To assess sleep apnea, the VA employs a criterion-based rating system, ranging from 0 to 100% disability. A 0% rating means sleep apnea is present but has a minimal effect on your daily living, while a 100% rating implies total occupational and social impairment due to sleep apnea symptoms. The continued need for a breathing assistance device like a CPAP machine can validate a 50% disability rating.

The Process of Getting a Sleep Apnea VA Rating

The procedure to secure a sleep apnea VA rating begins with filing a VA disability claim. The veteran must prove a direct service connection, necessitating substantial documentation including medical records, sleep study results, and service records proofing incidents that might have led to sleep apnea. Evaluation by a VA-sanctioned physician follows, after which the VA determines your rating based on severity.

Challenges and Controversies With Sleep Apnea VA Ratings

Many veterans face a challenging path in securing a sleep apnea VA rating. Difficulties proving the causal relationship between military service and sleep apnea pose significant hurdles. Controversially, there’s a debate on whether a 50% rating for those on CPAP machines is justifiable, given the relative ease of management with the device, leading to discussions about the appropriateness of the rating system.

Tips to Successfully Secure a Sleep Apnea VA Rating

Importantly, veterans should keep detailed records of their symptoms, maintaining solid documentation of their medical evaluations and treatments. Consultations with medical and legal experts specializing in VA claims can be beneficial in framing a solid case. Veterans organizations and advocacy groups also provide resources and guidance throughout the process.


Recognizing the importance of the VA rating for sleep apnea is the first step for any veteran in getting the necessary assistance. In confronting this often debilitating condition, it is essential to be informed, organized, and proactive. To all the brave servicemen and women affected by sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to reach for the support you rightfully deserve and earned.

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