The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs identified sleep apnea as a disability in 1996, according to the Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America. The condition was then added to the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities, which establishes guidelines for adjudicating disability claims by veterans.
Sleep apnea is the partial or full obstruction of a sleeping person’s airway that prevents proper breathing. Depending on the severity of the condition, veterans can receive disability pay for sleep apnea that initially developed while they were serving, in addition to receiving retirement pay. Veterans who need a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine to sleep are considered 50 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2015, entitling them to higher levels of disability pay, according to an article by USA Today.
In 2001, 983 veterans received disability payments for sleep apnea, while almost 25,000 veterans received payments in 2012, according to Military.com. This prompted the agency to consider changing the disability rating schedule for the condition. Disability payments for sleep apnea may be over $1 billion per year, as estimated by USA Today. Some think that the 50-percent disability rating for obstructive sleep apnea may be excessive when compared to the 40-percent disability rating for a veteran who lost a limb during service.