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Sleep Apnea claims for veterans climbs 150%

USA Today reports veterans are claiming disability benefits for sleep apnea at an alarming rate. In fact, according to recent reports, sleep apnea claims have spiked nearly 150% since 2009, costing the U.S. government a whopping $1 billion per year, according to government data and interviews.

Payments for sleep apnea, if the veteran receives at least a 50% disability rating, could be as high as $822.15. The SSA reports that nearly nine of 10 veterans receiving compensation are considered 50% disabled by the condition.

Sleep apnea rate high for obese


Sleep apnea rates are increasing and have been for years. Most experts attribute the increase to the rising obesity rates for Americans, which is now higher than 50%. Sleep apnea and obesity both can contribute to other serious health conditions including heart disease. Veterans who are left untreated can be very severe health issues, including death.

Another reason rates for disability have increased is because the United States has been involved in multiple wars. In fact, according to the Veterans Affairs, “more than 94% of recipients of benefits are veterans of Gulf War I or the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.” Veterans also have a greater awareness of treatment options. The rise in sleep apnea claims began before 2010, when an estimated 63,118 veterans were receiving benefits for the condition.

Treating sleep apnea


The good news is there are good treatment options for sleep apnea. The most common is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine which can eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnea by preventing a sleeper’s airway from collapsing. If a veteran uses the CPAP machine they may be able to eliminate almost all of the symptoms from sleep apnea.

There has been some complaint, however, about how compensation for VA disability benefits is calculated. For instance, if a soldier has sleep apnea and is considered 50% disabled, they would receive more money than another soldier who has lost their leg below their knee. In fact, losing a leg below the knee is considered a 40% disability and would only pay $577.54 per month.

But at issue is whether sleep apnea, which can be corrected by the CPAP machine, is as disabling as losing a limb. Even if a veteran receives a prosthetic limb it’s not like they have a leg. But a CPAP machine can eliminate nearly all the symptoms of sleep apnea.

VA set to review disability ratings


The Veteran’s Administration is set to review their disability ratings system over the next several years and make update within the next two years. Regardless of how the rating is done, the costs for disabled veterans are high. In fact, according to Todd Harrison, a military budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a non-partisan think tank, the budget for the VA is “scheduled to jump from $96 billion in 2009 to $151 billion in 2014, much of the increase associated with caring for the aging Vietnam-era generation.”
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