The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is seeing a sharp rise in reported cases of the breathing disorder sleep apnea. USA Today reported that over the last two years, the number of sleep apnea patients receiving disability benefits from the VA has risen 61 percent, at a cost of close to a half-billion dollars a year.
USA Today reported on the risk factors:
"More than 63,000 veterans receive benefits for sleep apnea, a disorder that causes a sleeping person to gasp for breath and awaken frequently. It is linked to problems ranging from daytime drowsiness to heart disease. The top risk factor for contracting the disorder appears to be obesity, though a sleep expert at the VA and a veteran's advocacy organization cite troops' exposure to dust and smoke in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq as contributing factors.
"More claims are likely to be made in the future as Baby Boomers age and get heavier, says Max Hirshkowitz, director of the Sleep Disorder Center at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
"Veterans are four times more likely than other Americans to suffer from sleep apnea, Hirshkowitz said. About 5% of Americans have the disorder, he said, compared with 20% of veterans."Resources