The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has come under heavy criticism in the last few months. While several criticisms are justified and others are erroneous, criticisms seem to have the improvement of care for Veterans in mind… mostly.
One criticism about the VA that the public should be aware of are the complaints that sleep apnea patients are getting too high of a priority within the VA healthcare system.
Currently, Veterans who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea get assigned a disability rating of 50% or higher, and are placed in Priority Group 2 for medical care. In 2013, there were over 127,000 Veterans with a 50% or higher disability rating due to sleep apnea. These claims, estimated at exactly 50% for an unmarried Veteran without children, would be calculated at over $1.25 billion for the year. Higher disability ratings and having dependents makes the actual amount substantially higher.
Critics complain that while sleep apnea will get a Veteran a 50% disability rating, a lost limb may only get a Veteran 40%. This difference in disability ratings have been used in accusations of scandal within the VA.
What these critics might not know is that Veterans who have lost limbs and organs already receive an additional monthly compensation that starts at $3,500 for disability ratings of 30% and higher. This means that a Veteran who loses a leg below the knee while serving, and can be fitted with a prosthetic limb, and is considered 40% disabled will receive $577.54 each month in their disability compensation, and then an additional $3,556.56, or more in Special Monthly Compensation.
Critics want the public to believe that Veteran amputees only get an additional $101.50. This amount is only for Veterans who lost a limb or organ without qualifying for a 30% or higher rating, which is not likely. It is not known why critics of the VA would spread this misinformation.
What critics of sleep apnea claims might not know is the severity of the affliction. The word “apnea” is Greek and means “without breath.” Veterans with sleep apnea involuntarily stop breathing while they are asleep. If untreated, sleep apnea can lead to other severe health problems, including cardiovascular disease, impotence, weight gain, high blood pressure and even death.
More than 18 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Males, who are over forty and overweight are the most susceptible to sleep apnea,.
Anyone who is serious about providing the best care and treatment for Veterans should see the value in providing care for the Veterans who suffer from sleep apnea. Any Veteran who is in danger of further injuring themselves or dying every time they go to sleep, or who require a machine to regulate their breathing while they sleep should receive the care and benefits that they are entitled to through their military service.
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Military Connection: VA Sleep Apnea Claims: By Debbie Gregory