It is axiomatic that as veterans get older, those veterans will make more disability claims. Over the last two years, veterans filing for and receiving disability payments for sleep apnea has increased 61%. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this costs taxpayers more than $500 million per year.
Sleep apnea is a disorder which forces sleeping people to gasp for breath and awaken often. Apnea has become associated with health problems ranging from simple issues such as daytime drowsiness to more serious harms as heart disease.
Obesity seems to be the top risk factor for developing sleep apnea. Some sleep experts also believe contributing factors may include soldiers’ exposure to smoke, dust, and other toxins in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
This belief may or may not be related to the fact that veterans are 4 times more likely than civilians to develop sleep apnea. Approximately 20% of veterans suffer from sleep apnea compared with 5% of the civilian population. As a result, the benefits veterans drawn for sleep apnea are far greater than what is offered in the private sector. This is most likely because there has been no is to date no connection between sleep apnea and any civilian occupation.
Three years have passed since Congress asked the VA to be more attentive to veterans suffering from sleep apnea. More veterans have sought treatment as awareness has grown; this is the root of the veterans’ increase in disability claims.
Veterans with disability ratings of 50 are the largest group of veterans currently receiving benefits. Disability payments to this group of veterans for sleep apnea rose from $306 million in 2008 to $534 million in 2010. Veterans are also able to receive benefits while working, which is in opposition to the Social Security Administration’s policy, which recognizes sleep apnea as a disability.
While some may be predisposed to developing sleep apnea, weight gain seems to be a major contributing factor. As veterans age, their level of exercise will decrease. For many this is due to injuries to their knees and hips, for example, preventing them from maintaining the same level of activity.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.