Hello Guest, Welcome to Apnea Board !
As a guest, you are limited to certain areas of the board and there are some features you can't use.
To post a message, you must create a free account using a valid email address.

or Create an Account

New Posts   Today's Posts

[News] VA, Congress shrug as sleep apnea claims surge
VA, Congress shrug as sleep apnea claims surge

By Tom Philpott

In fiscal 2013, the number of veterans receiving compensation for sleep apnea jumped by another 26 percent, or more than 29,000 beneficiaries, VA data shows.

VA says ratings assigned for sleep apnea and all other respiratory conditions are being evaluated on an objective basis, using advances in medical science and data from average earnings loss studies.

Last June the VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation privately recommended to Allison A. Hickey, under secretary for benefits, that the Department of Veterans Affairs consider four steps to address a recent surge in VA compensation awards for sleep apnea.

The proposals, which only now come to light, were drafted the same day that committee members received a public briefing on sleep apnea that confirmed a 25-fold jump in compensation payments since 9/11. The VA briefer also noted that 13 percent of all veterans with service after 9/11 and who draw VA disability pay are being compensated for sleep apnea.

The committee, chaired by retired Army Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, recommended that VA:

-- Have compensation exams for sleep apnea given exclusively by VA doctors to ensure required sleep tests are properly conducted.

-- Have the Institute of Medicine conduct a detailed study on degree of actual disability associated with sleep apnea, particularly for veterans who are prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which under VA regulations results in an automatic rating of 50 percent.

-- Conduct a review of criteria and methodology for establishing service connection to sleep apnea.

-- Review criteria for establishing average earning loss for veterans diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Which of these did VA undertake over the last seven months?

VA officials can't point to any action taken on these recommendations, but said they do inform an ongoing process to overhaul the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). They may be "redundant of other research associated with the VASRD revision process…. Any recommendations regarding the rating criteria for sleep apnea are still under consideration by the regulation drafter for this body system."

Ratings "assigned for sleep apnea and all other respiratory conditions are being evaluated on an objective basis, using advances in medical science and data from average earnings loss studies," the VA said.

Meanwhile, in fiscal 2013, the number of veterans receiving compensation for sleep apnea jumped by another 26 percent, or more than 29,000 beneficiaries, according to VA data. As of Oct. 1, 143,278 vets were rated disabled by sleep apnea, and 89 percent of their ratings were at least 50 percent.

Reached by email, Scott confirmed sending a memorandum to Hickey, which he said, "can be described as an interim report on the issue of sleep apnea," offering advice on behalf of the committee.

"Our advice is based on our understanding of the issue and does not consider the political environment inside or outside VA," Scott said. "The Secretary may act on our advice, refer our advice to the VA staff for study, or reject our advice in whole or in part."

The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive. It occurs when breathing is interrupted, usually because soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses, blocking the airway. Breathing interruptions, or apnea, can be frequent and last seconds or longer, causing chronic fatigue if untreated.

Incidence of sleep apnea is rising in tandem with obesity rates in this country, say medical experts, although there can be other causes.

The most common path to a VA sleep apnea disability rating, the briefer told the committee, is to be "overweight" and have this common sleep disorder diagnosed as they separate or retire from service.

In revising the VASRD, officials said veterans would be grandfathered against rating downgrades. Any changes would apply only to new claimants. Discussion raises anxieties, however, and also gives rise to new claims.

A 50-percent rating is a key threshold, making retirees eligible to receive both full retirement and VA disability pay, at that rate $822 to $1088 a month, depending on family size. Most retirees rated less than 50 percent see retired pay offset, dollar-for-dollar, by VA disability pay.

Of roughly 29,200 veterans who began receiving sleep apnea compensation in the last year, 93 percent had ratings of 50 percent or higher. So that proportion, already high, appears to be climbing.

By comparison, a soldier who loses two dominant fingers, such as a thumb and index finger, also earns a disability rating of 50 percent.

Michael Webster, a family law attorney in Shalimar, Fl., and former naval aviator, complained to the House Veterans Affairs Committee last year of widespread abuse in sleep apnea claims. He called the boom in payments a scam perpetuated mostly by retirees coached toward an easy 50-percent rating. If they snore, he said, they know to order a sleep study. Webster called it an offensive for veterans, like his late father, with "real disabilities."

A staff member for the House Veterans Affairs Committee investigated Webster's charges and concluded "there does not appear to be widespread abuse of compensation related to this disorder."

Fair Use from:
The above post may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material available is intended to advance the understanding of Sleep Apnea treatment and to advance the educational level of Sleep Apnea patients with regard to their health. Sometimes included is the full text of articles and documents rather than a simple link because outside links frequently "go bad" or change over time. This constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this post is distributed without fee or payment of any kind for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this post for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Post Reply Post Reply

Donate to Apnea Board  

Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  afib and sleep apnea poppypete 165 5,245 6 hours ago
Last Post: jaswilliams
  Altitude-induced Sleep Apnea b.e.wilson 6 214 06-17-2018, 10:21 PM
Last Post: ShaunBlake
  Frustrated with Complex sleep apnea FeelingLikeCaCa 9 461 06-07-2018, 09:18 PM
Last Post: Sleeprider
Exclaimation Sleep Apnea Survey! Hydrangea 13 530 05-18-2018, 10:41 PM
Last Post: RedBarron
  Central sleep apnea theMezz 21 791 05-07-2018, 10:07 AM
Last Post: Spy Car
  central sleep apnea increase Chieffy123 11 554 04-24-2018, 01:21 PM
Last Post: Chieffy123
  New to sleep apnea, need some feedback please Jay.E 11 590 04-22-2018, 05:37 AM
Last Post: Apnea Infant

Forum Jump:

New Posts   Today's Posts

About Apnea Board

Apnea Board is an educational web site designed to empower Sleep Apnea patients.