The military appears to be mirroring civilian society with sleep apnea claims on the rise. According to USA Today, sleep apnea claims have spiked almost 150% since 2009, with government data estimates of about $1 billion per year in costs.
Reporter Tom Vanden Brook writes that nearly nine of 10 veterans receiving compensation are considered 50% disabled by the condition, in which breathing ceases during sleep. For a single veteran without dependents, the monthly payment is $822.15 for a disability rating of 50%.
Veterans Affairs officials attribute the surge in claims — more than 94% of them from veterans of Gulf War I or the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — to greater awareness of the condition. “Sleep apnea has become more and more known as a disease,” said Bradley Flohr, senior adviser for compensation service at the Veterans Benefits Administration in the article. “It can be quite severe. You can die from it.”
USA TODAY first reported on rising sleep apnea claims in June 2010, when only 63,118 veterans were receiving benefits for the condition. “Veterans with sleep apnea are considered by the Department of Veterans affairs to be 50% disabled if they need a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to get a good night’s sleep,” writes Vanden Brook. “The machine and mask increase air pressure in the throat to prevent the airway from collapsing. It eliminates virtually all symptoms of sleep apnea for most people although it is not a cure, said Michael Twery, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health. Many find the mask uncomfortable to wear.”