Now Hear This: Two Bills Address Military Disability for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is the most common condition eligible for VA Disability. The number of Disabled American Veterans with tinnitus has risen steadily each year since 2006, with a matching increase in the number of claims. Costs for the VA are rising, too, with $1.5 billion paid in VA Disability Benefits for tinnitus in 2012 alone. That figure is expected to soar to a whopping $3 billion in 2017!
 
There are 2 bills in Congress right now that deal with disability for tinnitus and hearing loss, one in the House and one in the Senate.
 
The bill in the House would require the VA’s Auditory Centers of Excellence to work with the DoD’s Hearing Center of Excellence to research the prevention and treatment of tinnitus.
 
This research would focus on the effectiveness of different tinnitus treatments, the underlying causes of tinnitus, and the physical connections between tinnitus and hearing loss. Also of concern to Congress is a growing body of research from other sources that shows a direct link between tinnitus and PTSD and TBI.
 
Back in 2006, a report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, titled “Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus”, gave recommendations to the VA for properly treating auditory conditions. The bill that is currently in the Senate would hold the VA accountable for putting into practice the recommendations made in this report.
 
If the bill passes into law, the Secretary of the VA would be required to submit reports to Congress on how well the VA is doing providing care, treatment, and benefits to veterans with hearing loss, tinnitus or other auditory system injuries or conditions based on the recommendations from the report.
 
The VA’s reports are to include details on the veterans that are denied hearing loss-related benefits because their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is NOT included on the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing.
 
In addition, this bill would require the VA to critically examine and explain their criteria for rating hearing loss and tinnitus to ensure that the ratings and compensation properly reflect the reduced earning capacity of veterans with auditory disabilities.
 
Both of these bills are still being processed by Congress, but we will continue to watch their progress and let you know when (or if) they pass. Hopefully they will, and soon.

98 Comments

  • Listened to high speed morse code (for 3+ years) through static louder than a rock concert. Have 10% tinnitus and hearing is terrible. Don't know if a 29251 is on the list of AF high probability for hearing loss.
    Probably need to go in. Stumbling every now and then too.
    Mike

  • Hi Mike –

    MOS 29251 isn't specifically listed on the Noise Exposure Listing, however, it is one that can be strongly argued should be. I think you should go ahead and apply for VA Disability. I'm pretty confident that they will consider your hearing loss and tinnitus ratable. Now, since it isn't officially on the list, they may still deny it during the first round, but you can appeal, and I think you would ultimately win.

  • PMOS 11E3P SMOS 45K3P 9 years inside Main Combat Tanks with 2 years as an armor officer instructor at Ft Knox Have had ringing in years since I left in 1981 and has been getting worse it is now at the point that I can not make out some words at times and crowd noises bother me is this rateable?

  • Doctor I filed an intent on Dec 19th 2015 with the VA for Tinnitus and Bilateral hearing loss. I have been treated at the local VA hospital and clinics since 2010 and way back then I was given a test at the VA hospital , at that time the audiologist recommended filing the claim and I was issued hearing aids. I wasn't sure if it was worth my time and always heard it was a long drawn out process so I waited until this last December 2015 to file and see "what they said". I was called to ocme in for another test in January 2016 and On February 8th I was approved for 10% service connected Tinnitus and )% service connected Bilateral hearing loss. I am confused as to why they admit it was service connected clearly but gave a 0% rating , I was also quite shocked at how fast the decision was returned …. My MOS was 13 Bravo Cannon Crew Member on M198 Towed Howitzers and I was active duty Army 10 October 1987- 5 May 1991. Honorably discharged. The exact wording of my decision on the bilateral hearing loss is
    "1.Your examiner Opined that it is at least as likely as not that your hearing loss is due to military noise exposure.
    2. We have granted your claim for bilateral hearing loss
    3. VA Examination findings show the left ear with 88% discrimination. Decibel loss at the puretone threshold of 500 hertz is 30 with a 25dB loss at 1000hz, a 25dB loss at 2000hz , a 65db loss at 3000hz, and a 60dB at 4000hz. The average dB loss is 44 in the left ear.
    The right ear shows a speech discrimination of 86%
    . dB loss at the Puretone Threshold of 500hz is 25 with a 30dB loss at 1000hz, a 30db loss at 2000hz, a 65 dB loss at 3000hz, and a 60 dB loss at 4000hz. The average dB loss is 46 in the right ear.
    4. Service connection is warranted because your military occupational specialty of cannon crewmember is consistent with acoustic trauma and your hearing loss has been linked to that acoustic trauma.
    5An evaluation of 0 percent is assigned because your right ear has a speech discrimination of 86 with an average dB loss of 46 and your left ear has a speech discrimination of 88 with an average dB loss of 44.The evaluation of hearing loss is based on objective testing. Higher evaluations are assigned for more severe hearing impairment."

    Im not sure what to do now or where to turn for advice and was hoping you could shed some light on this finding and what my next steps if any should be if any ? I appreciate your time in this matter and just would like to understand what to do next and this may help others as well . Thank You Rick O. Southwest Virginia

  • Hi Rick –

    Yes, it's pretty normal for a condition to be considered service-connected but not rate higher than a 0%.

    For your hearing test results, they did rate you correctly. If you check out the Hearing Loss Rating System on our website, you'll find that the rating associated with your test results is a 0%.

    http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/theears.html#system

    Basically, you have hearing loss and it was caused by your military service, but it is not yet severe enough to warrant a higher rating. The good news is that since it was considered service-connected, if it gets worse in the future, it will be quick and easy to have your rating increased.

    Your case was determined correctly and fairly (and very quickly), so there is nothing to do right now. Since it is service-connected, you are entitled for full health care for your hearing loss and if it worsens in the future, your rating will be increased.

  • Thank you very much ! I appreciate the response, my biggest worry is the "not knowing" part. I always just assumed that disability compensation was for Combat veterans who were wounded in battle. I have independent testing results that show a much higher level of hearing loss, but at least they are admitting it was service related and I am learning that is usually the biggest hurdle veterans face. Just wish I would have known about what's available a long time ago :). I also would like to say that with the thousands of negative issues you hear about the VA daily, in the news and on the web My experience has been nothing but Top Notch from day 1 !Mountain Home, TN has to be the exception to the rule because there isn't a day or week that goes by that they haven't gone out of their way to provide excellent care to me and several of my Veteran Brothers and Dependent family members of friends. Thank you for all you do Doctor !

  • If you have test results that show I higher level of hearing loss, you may be able to get your rating increased. The VA will want to do another round of their own tests, but if your hearing is worse than the tests they rated you on, then the results of the new tests will be enough to increase your rating. I'm not sure of the dates of all your tests, but they will definitely perform additional tests and get your rating increased if your hearing is worse.

    It's great to hear about your interactions with the VA. The VA does deserve a good plug for the many, many things they do right. Many veterans, such as yourself are getting exceptional treatment and service.

  • I was a Pneudraulic Repairman in the air force and Iput a claim in for hearing loss and tinnitus and was denied for both. The VA said my hearing loss is not service connected because my hearing was good when I discharged

  • Hi Lenard –

    As a pneudraulic repairman, you should have had MOS code 2A635, 2A655, 2A675, or 2A695. If you did have one of these MOSs, then it is covered on the Duty MOS Noise Exposure List, and they should definitely not have denied your claim. If you had one of these MOSs, you can submit an appeal, and you should be successful.

  • I am preparing my supporting documentation and getting a hearing test completed by a private audiologist to submit with my claim. My original MOS was 328×0, and was changed to 455×2, which now seems to be 2A1X3. Avionic and Navigation Systems and worked flight line my entire time in the Air Force. Is there any advice you can provide for my submission? I intend to provide documentation on the type of aircraft I worked around on a regular basis, etc..