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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Veterans Disability

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Veterans Disability

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a prevalent sleep disorder among veterans, characterized by the relaxation of throat muscles during sleep, leading to airway blockages. Leah will explore the relationship between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and veterans disability, focusing on the direct or primary connection to military service.

Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What is OSA?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax excessively during sleep, causing the collapse of the airway. This obstruction prevents the normal flow of air, resulting in disrupted breathing patterns during sleep. The most common symptoms include loud snoring, interruptions in breathing, and daytime sleepiness.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are different types of sleep apnea, but we’ll focus on OSA. Central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea involve different mechanisms and will be addressed in the future.

VA Requirements for Service Connection

Diagnosing OSA

To establish service connection, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) typically requires a confirmed diagnosis of sleep apnea through a polysomnogram, commonly known as a sleep study. This comprehensive test monitors various aspects of sleep, such as breathing interruptions and apnea events. The Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) is a crucial metric, with a value over five often indicating obstructive sleep apnea.

Primary Service Connection

For primary service connection, the VA looks for confirmation that the veteran has been diagnosed with sleep apnea and that the condition is related to their military service. This could involve having the sleep apnea diagnosed during active duty or proving a direct connection to service.

Secondary Service Connection

Secondary service connection is established when a condition arises as a result of another service-connected disability. For instance, veterans with mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, or anxiety may develop sleep apnea, and the VA may recognize it as secondary to their existing service-connected condition.

Examples of Secondary Connections

Secondary connections can extend to various conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sinusitis, deviated septum, orthopedic issues limiting exercise, or asthma affecting breathing. These secondary connections involve a complex analysis of individual medical histories and the opinions of examiners and raters.

In-Service Diagnoses and Active Duty

Primary Service Connection Criteria

If a veteran receives a diagnosis of sleep apnea while on active duty, it is generally considered a primary service connection. However, for reservists or those on inactive duty training (IDT), the situation may be more complex. Chronic diseases like diabetes and sleep apnea are often not presumed to be incurred during inactive duty periods, but exceptions may exist and it is best to check with an accredited legal professional for clarification.

Challenges for Older Veterans

Older veterans, especially those from past decades, might face challenges in proving in-service diagnoses due to limited routine sleep studies and healthcare accessibility during their active duty years.

Supporting Claims with Evidence

Importance of Documentation

To support a service connection claim, veterans should provide evidence of their sleep apnea diagnosis. This usually involves the results of a sleep study, but additional statements from buddies, spouses, or family members who witnessed symptoms can add support.

Example of Supporting Evidence

In crafting letters for veterans, specific criteria from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine can be referenced. Including details like loud snoring witnessed by others, breathing interruptions, and the veteran’s own experiences of daytime sleepiness can help build a compelling case.

Conclusion

In conclusion, veterans seeking disability benefits for obstructive sleep apnea should understand the criteria for listed above, whether primary or secondary. Documentation, including sleep study results and supporting statements, plays a crucial role in establishing a solid case. Additionally, knowing the VA rating criteria can help veterans anticipate the potential disability rating they may receive based on the severity of their condition.

Also read: Fatty Liver Disease and Veterans Disability

At Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting, a veteran-owned company, we specialize in Independent Medical Opinions (IMOs) known as Nexus letters.

Our purpose is to empower YOU, the veteran, to take charge of your medical evidence and provide you with valuable educational tools and research to guide you on your journey.

Understanding the unique challenges veterans face, our commitment lies in delivering exceptional service and support.

Leveraging an extensive network of licensed independent medical professionals, all well-versed in the medical professional aspects of the VA claims process, we review the necessary medical evidence to incorporate in our reports related to your VA Disability Claim.

Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting is not a law firm, accredited claims agent, or affiliated with the Veterans Administration or Veterans Services Organizations. However, we are happy to discuss your case with your accredited VA legal professional.

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Leticia

LETICIA

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Leticia has been in the medical field for nearly 14 years. She has always had a passion for medicine and caring for her community. Leticia has spent the last 4 years caring for veterans and first responders with alcohol and substance abuse in a medical rehabilitation setting whilst continuing her education working towards a degree in software development.

Someday she hopes to develop medical software that further enhances the patient’s experience in medical care. Leticia has a deep respect and love for those who have served as she comes from a family of law enforcement and military veterans.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Julie Pereira

JULIE PEREIRA:

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

During her Active-Duty time in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, Julie provided medical administration
and patient care services in the field, the hospital, and base medical office settings.  This military medical and
administrative background has given Julie the hands-on experience and extensive knowledge necessary to
provide unparalleled service to her fellow Veterans through the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team.

Julie’s educational achievements include a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Human Services and a pre-nursing associate in arts and science.

Julie has been inspired by her firsthand knowledge of navigating the VA Benefits process. She has dedicated
most of her adult life to serving Veterans through her knowledge derived from her military and civilian medical
education and training.

Jennifer Januta

JENNIFER JANUTA, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER

During her Active-Duty service in the Army, Jennifer supported various research efforts centered on combat casualty care and Soldier performance. Her military background gave her unique insights into veterans’ distinct challenges, ultimately inspiring her to join the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team.

Jennifer’s educational achievements include a master’s in molecular biology from George Washington University and a master’s in data science from Texas Tech University. Jennifer wholeheartedly dedicates herself to utilizing her knowledge and expertise gained from 15 years of healthcare experience to impact the well-being of those who have served positively.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Leah - Meet the Team

LEAH BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, MEDICAL EXPERT & FORMER C & P EXAMINER

Meet Leah, the founder, and leader of our organization. ​​A combat veteran herself, she understands the unique challenges veterans face, making her mission about much more than running a successful business. It’s about the opportunity to provide a legacy of exceptional service for our heroes.​

​“It is essential to remember that there is no greater honor than caring for service members on the battlefield. Continuing to care for Veterans after separation is an opportunity that I have been afforded to extend that care in this new battlefield related to service-incurred disabilities.”

Her inspiration comes from years of military experience working alongside her fellow servicemembers, particularly key leaders who have influenced her journey, applying their wisdom to her path. She values her team deeply, most of whom are also disabled combat veterans, each member a trusted individual sharing her vision.

 “Driven by passion and purpose, I aim to create a sustainable change that empowers veterans and future generations.”

Leah’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. From overcoming and living with her service-related disabilities to navigating work-life balance, she’s learned to face each hurdle head-on with resilience.  Like many of her veteran brothers and sisters, her early background consisted of limited resources and opportunities. Her military service has helped shape her into a steadfast leader, offering relatable inspiration to others.

Join us in celebrating Leah, a compassionate leader, and resilient veteran, driving our mission to serve those who served our nation.