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.