The transition from a life in the military to normal, civilian ordinariness is not as seamless as many veterans would hope. It is oftentimes marked with relics from a time most of them would rather forget but are unable to. This is why sleeping problems, like insomnia, are very popular among Veterans. The National Veteran Sleep Survey revealed that 73.5% of the Veterans they interviewed confessed to meeting the general criteria for insomnia. Good thing is, as a Veteran, you can get compensated for this.
This article will reveal in detail how you can get a VA rating for insomnia.
Common Symptoms of Insomnia
While insomnia is largely characterised by an inability to sleep, it is not the only symptom of the disorder.
The tell-tale signs of insomnia include;
- Difficulty with falling asleep.
- Waking earlier than normal.
- Inability to sleep undisturbed.
- Disruptive sleep disorders.
- Constant irritability.
- Sleep anxiety.
- Extreme fatigue during the daytime.
- Feeling tired immediately after waking from sleep.
- Concentration difficulties.
- Inability to focus attention.
- Difficulty remembering small and big events.
Common Causes of Insomnia Among Veterans
Many Veterans who struggle with insomnia do not have to look too far to find its cause. Among Veterans, insomnia can be traced back to their time in the military. Vantage Point, the official website of the US Department of Veteran Affairs, confirms that ‘Veterans have much higher insomnia rates than non-Veterans.’ In substantiating this data, the researchers collected data from 5,500 post 9/11Veterans over a period of seven years and they discovered that 57% of those Veterans struggled with insomnia. The research also concluded that it was a result of certain aspects of military life.
It is common knowledge that active military life is extremely stressful as it demands great sacrifices of personal time and energy. A report by BusinessNewsDaily places ‘Enlisted Military Personnel’ as the first on the list of 2021’s Most Stressful Jobs with a stress score of 72.58. This stress could trigger sleep problems like insomnia.
- Irregular Sleep Schedules
By being in active military service, sleep is not the priority that it should be. From constantly changing time zones, to taking shifts at overnight operations, to rigorous training schedules, good sleep is near impossible. While the body might wish to adhere to the circadian rhythm, the demands of the job might make it impossible to do so. A research by the Sleep Foundation proved that 76% of military personnel do not get their recommended seven to nine hours of sleep daily.
- Environmental Factors like Harsh and Unconducive Living Conditions
While in service, military personnel are constantly exposed to harsh and unconducive living conditions that impair sleep and reduce sleep quality. Poor lighting, high levels of noise, and even shifts in temperature will trigger physical responses that hinder sleep.
- Psychological/Physical Injuries
The research by Vantage Point also proved that over 93% of Veterans suffering from PTSD had insomnia while 78% of those with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) also had insomnia. These conditions are service-related as well. What this concludes is that pre-existing psychological conditions could also cause insomnia. The same goes for physical injuries.
- Side Effects of Medications
Many Veterans take certain medications to ease pre-existing conditions oblivious to the fact that developing sleep problems may just be one of the side-effects of those medications. Drugs like antidepressants, blood-pressure medications, and even sleeping pills can quickly create sleeping problems for the average Veteran.
Is Insomnia a VA Disability?
There is a clear difference between having some bouts of sleeplessness and suffering from insomnia. If it can be proven beyond doubt that your sleeplessness is directly service-connected, incessant, has affected your daily life, and contributes to your mental and physical deterioration, then you can file a claim.
In that case,
Yes, insomnia is considered a VA Disability and it can get a disability rating anywhere from 0% to 100%. This is according to the Schedule of Ratings for Mental Disorders (38 CFR § 4.130). How high your VA rating is depends on the severity of the symptoms and how well you can prove that they are service-connected. With your insomnia, it is also possible to get a Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TIDU) which is $3,332.06 monthly, with attendant health benefits. For this though, you must have a 100% VA rating. However, you must note that VAs will typically list insomnia as a secondary component of a worse medical condition.
What Kind of VA Disability Benefits Can You Get For Insomnia?
Like we mentioned before, if you manage to attain a 100% disability rating for insomnia by providing evidence of complete social and occupational damage, then you qualify for a TIDU. In this case, you will have to prove that you’re clinically unable to secure or maintain gainful employment due to your insomnia. Once it’s approved, you’ll be entitled to $3,332.06 monthly, with attendant health benefits. We must warn you though; getting a 100% rating for insomnia is near-impossible.
The worth of a TIDU for insomnia is the same as the highest schedular benefit available to VAs – $3,332.06, free healthcare, and secondary health insurance coverage. This was documented in the 2022 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates released in December of 2021. The lowest disability rating is 10% and the amount payable is $152.64. At this rate (and 20%), you get no extra benefits or higher rate for your dependents. From a 30% to a 60% rating, you can access $467.39 – $1,214.03 with no dependents and as high as $1,585.03 with dependents (parents, spouse, and children). A 70% to 100% rating gets you from $1,529.95 to $3,952.09 with dependents. Ratings of 30% to 100% also come with extra benefits and higher rates for dependents.
Also, a 0% is possible if your diagnosis shows that your symptoms are not severe enough to cause any real impairment. Although no compensation will be payable to the Veteran involved, it’s always good to let the authorities know that your condition is service-connected.
How Do You Get a VA Rating for Insomnia?
Now, this is where the work is. When filing for a disability claim, it’s not enough to report that you have not slept 10 hours in one week and now, your supervisor is threatening to let you go. You might get a few sympathetic looks here and there but no real help. To get the claims you deserve, you must be able to prove that your insomnia is service-connected. To make that happen;
- You must be able to provide ample evidence of your condition’s existence in a medical diagnosis from an authorised VA clinic or medical professional.
- You must then be able to describe the event that triggered your sleeping problems (Note that it does not matter whether you were in active service or not).
- Finally, you need a medical nexus that proves that your insomnia is service-connected.
These are the three major ways you can get a VA rating for insomnia;
- Direct Service Connection for Insomnia Through C&P Examinations
A C&P Examination is a Compensation and Pensions Examination – a medical examination provided by the VA to substantiate a Veteran’s claim(s) of disability. The standard procedure is for this examination to be conducted in a VA clinic and the report sent to the VA Regional Office (RO) for review. If the report contains convincing evidence of your disability, then the claim would be approved. But if it does not and the claim is denied, you can contest that decision and demand a second opinion by a different healthcare advisor. Regardless, when there is doubt, the benefit is always tilted in favour of the Veteran.
- Secondary Service Connection for Insomnia
You can claim insomnia as a secondary service connection by proving that it was triggered by a primary condition that has already been deemed service connected. Insomnia can be linked as a secondary effect of both physical and mental conditions. For example, research shows that more than 93% of Veterans with PTSD struggle with insomnia. If one of those Veterans decide to file a disability claim, they can attach insomnia as a secondary condition and even get compensated for both of them separately. The same goes for a physical service connected condition like injuries that hinder good sleeping patterns, like chronic back pain. Here, you can get a rating of 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%.
- Service Connection for Insomnia by Aggravation
It is still possible to file a disability claim if you suffered from mild insomnia before you went into service. You can claim that the demands of service aggravated your mild condition until it became chronic. Although proving this may not be as straightforward as the others, it is still worth the shot.
While filing your disability claim is the right thing to do (because you deserve it!), it is unfortunately not the easiest. And that’s why we are here. With over 90 years of combined experience navigating the waters of the VA, we’re confident that we’ll get you a result you’re happy with. We’ve helped thousands of satisfied clients get the VA disability benefits they’re entitled to and we can help you too.