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.
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Military Disability Made Easy

We hear you. The good news is that if they at least gave you a 0% for hearing loss, you'll be able to easily increase that rating once your hearing tests qualify you for a higher rating. Hearing loss does have to be fairly significant before it rates more than a 0%.

Crewchief4u
7 months ago

I was an Army Medic , flying on Choppers daily, and flying on them for a Chem biological team, exposed to noise of the choppers, I was also a KC1`35 Crewchief and exposed to Generators daily, jet engines from 135's and fighter jets at Selfridge Afb,MI Flightline vehicles daily, gators, hanger maintenance when working on KC135 in the hangers, my hearing has gotten worse, they gave me a lousy 10% for tinnitus. That needs to be fixed , we need to be compensated more for our hearing loss.

Military Disability Made Easy

You should be good to go with just submitting evidence of your MOS since it is listed as high probability.

Matt B.
3 years ago

I have a highly probable NEC(MOS) 23 Radioman (Listed as Information Systems Technician now. On Monday (Veterans Day) I go in for a CPI exam. My secondary designation is 2304 (International Morse Code Operator). My active duty was from 1987 to 1991, later did some reserve time. Anyway, I have had this ringing in my ears since March 1989 and noticed it just after I finished morse code school, where we had headsets on for 8 hours a day for 5 months. I specifically remember it because I had a hard time when I returned to ship distinguishing between real dits and dahs and the constant ring sound I was hearing. Anyway, didn't really know what it was at the time and I really loved my job so I was not going to complain about hearing and be relegated to some other position. To this day I have ringing in my ears, it is much more noticeable now that I am in a quiet office and out of cube land. Should I create a sworn statement or something or is this highly probable designation enough to establish service connection.

Military Disability Made Easy

You can submit a claim for hearing loss if your MOS (or it's modern equivalent) is marked as moderate or high on the Noise Exposure Listing:

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

All you need to do is submit a claim along with proof of your MOS and the length of service. Also include medical history of your hearing loss development. They will approve the claim unless there is sufficient evidence that your hearing loss was more likely caused by other circumstances (significant years of civilian work in a high-noise environment, etc).

billliam
3 years ago

I am 78. I was told 30 years ago that my hearing loss was related to loading 40MM artillery guns without ear plugs. The VA was not interested is discussing. I use hearing aids but always have problems discerning words and speech. My MOS was as a Canoneer. What are my options?

Steve
3 years ago

Please read this link below – might be of great help to ditty bop's attempting to figure out the latest version of the MOS aka job code for USAFSS or later… http://www.6988th.org/Docs/morse_code_operators.pdf

Military Disability Made Easy

You can submit outside evidence, but the VA will require a VA examination once you submit for an increase.

Unknown
3 years ago

I am currently rated 0% for hearing loss and 10% for tinnitus. My hearing has definitely worsened since I was rated. Am I allowed to see my own audiologist and fill out my own DBQ or do I have to go through the VA?

Unknown
3 years ago

thank you this is what I thought

Military Disability Made Easy

Tinnitus is only rated 10% whether it is in one or both ears, so you can only get a single 10% rating for tinnitus.

You are correct that your hearing loss based on those test scores should be rated at 10%. Since they consider both ears service-connected now, and if those are the most recent hearing test scores, then the VA did make a mistake and you should submit an appeal.

Unknown
3 years ago

I filed for tinnitus and hearing loss had c&p exam va opioned tinnitus sc 10% right ear sc left ear not sc they reversed left ear to sc I look on e-benefits it now states 10% tinnitus sc bilaterall hearing loss sc 0% don't understand am I missing something left ear 72% speech discrimination 35 threshold ave right ear 72% speech discrimination 49 threshold ave. I looks to me on the hearing disability chart I have a IV for ears and they calculate to 10% am I missing something if not why are they not seeing this thanks

Military Disability Made Easy

Please do, and good luck!

Unknown
3 years ago

Thanks so much, thinking of trying to get an attorney to set the stage at the BVA for the eventual appeal to the court.
again, thanks for all you do, will try to keep you posted

Military Disability Made Easy

You are fighting a hard fight. The reality is that the DAV does not have the power to grant an exception to a rule at this level. In order to get a change, you will have to appeal to the US Court of Appeals after being denied by the BVA and may require a lawyer.

An easier option would be to wait until the VA releases its proposed changes to the ratings for the ears. They are in the process of rewriting the rating requirements and haven't yet done hearing conditions. As a part of the rewrites, they are updated tests/terminology/etc. to reflect more current best medical practices.

When they publish their proposed changes (which we will blog about), you can submit comments regarding the changes and propose additional adjustment/changes, including this very issue. They then must fully consider all comments and apply those well argued and supported.

While I don't suggest removing your appeal since it still must go through the BVA before you can appeal to the higher courts, commenting on the proposed changes may be more effective and faster.

http://blog.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/2019/02/proposed-changes-to-ratings-of.html

Unknown
3 years ago

My case has just been put on the docket for the board of appeals. I am appealing that the Pure Tone testing procedure is not definitive enough to establish a truer or more accurate reading of the actual amount of loss when compared to the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) my research indicates an average differential of 34% decrease in speech recognition as opposed to the pure tone. Can you provide guidance or advice? Would love to discuss this with you. If my research can be supported, a decision in my favor would have a profound, nation wide affects to those suffering with hearing loss. My hopes would be improved/better hearing aids to allow for better voice recognition. The state of CA. only allows the HINT test for Public Safety employees I may have a case on behalf of our vets. I need help and guidance. I am a one man show! Thanks for all that you do for our Veterans. Dave

Military Disability Made Easy

If you can provide proof of your noise dosimetry and sound level work (including the length of the testing to show prolonged exposure), then the VA may grant your claim. It is always tricky to get a decision overturned, but not always impossible. You have to be able to provide the VA with a firm case that makes it clear that your hearing loss was definitely caused by this service and no other circumstances. If you are able to do this, they will grant your claim.

Unknown
3 years ago

Wales10–good luck with your VA claim. I'm currently receiving a 20% disability rating from the VA as a result of my work in and round aircraft during my Navy years (Aviation Electrician). My ability to understand conversations (speech discrimination) has worsened over the years, however, even after providing the VA with hearing test results from my own doctor and the VA testing facility, my request for higher benefits was denied. Why? My hearing tests need to be "Maryland CNC" type testing in order to be considered for higher compensation. My point here is despite having medical documentation or working in jobs such as Wales10, nothing is assured with the VA. Best wishes with your claim(s) !!!

Wales10
3 years ago

Good morning. I was a 4B0X1 in the Air Force, which is low on the spreadsheet. However, we went out to conduct noise dosimetry and sound level readings for employees and equipment, would there be a high likelihood for a reversal on my "not service connected"?

Military Disability Made Easy

This is the only official list used by the VA that I am aware of presently, but you can convert the old AFSC to the current MOS used on this list. That is what the VA does, so your AFSC should still correctly translate here.

http://www.airframeandpowerplant.com/Airforce.htm

You could site this to them and it could help, but they should already be using this as reference and converting to the current MOS codes.

doctorwho52
3 years ago

Thanks for the quick reply. However, my VA counselor says that the AFSC list/chart I mentioned in my original request would greatly help my appeal. As stated before, this list was compiled before the AFSC to MOS conversion was compiled.
So, once again my question is: Do you know the name of the Air Force chart or list that states the probability of hearing loss by AFSC?

Military Disability Made Easy

Yes, since your MOS is on the Noise Exposure Listing, you should be granted service-connection. We have the full list on our site:

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

doctorwho52
3 years ago

I have bilateral hearing loss that recently required the use of hearing aids, which I received through the VA. I applied for VA disability for the hearing loss but VA denied it claiming the hearing loss is not service connected.
In my online research on this matter I came across a chart of Air Force AFSCs that were considered assumptive for hearing loss, but I did not bookmark the site. This chart was probably created before the AFSC to MOS conversion was completed. Can you provide the website address or name of this AFSC chart?
FYI – My AFSC WAS 32852, Airborne Early Warning Radar Specialist. MOS conversion is 2A553 This MOS is listed as "High Probabilty" on the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Levels list.

Military Disability Made Easy

Before giving up, definitely try to submit the NEXUS letters from those physicians who do feel it is service-connected. Try to get one from each of the 3 doctors, if possible. You can submit a statement (it won't be a nexus since you aren't a physician), but your statement will not be very powerful. The letters from the 3 physicians will hold the most weight. If after you appeal with these NEXUS letters the VA still denies it, then it may not be possible. But definitely try this before giving up.

Unknown
4 years ago

Dr. George, my husband served on an aircraft carrier in the Navy during the Vietnam Wars(1965-1969). He is service connected for hearing loss (50%) and tinnitus(10%), bladder cancer(20%), headaches(30%). He also has been diagnosed with meniere's disease by his neurologist. He gets episodes of dizziness and loss of balance almost daily now. He is taking medication which helps. He didn't know much about the VA disabilities so didn't put in a claim for anything until 2 years ago. They have denied the Service Connection for the Meniere's Disease. We filed a reconsideration and it was also denied. There are 3 doctors saying it is service connected and 2 doctors (one which is in another State and has never met him) the other is a VA ENT practicing plastic surgery that do not agree. The approving doctors are his private Neurologist, and two VA doctors (ENT's). The two that disagree are both VA doctors. He plans to appeal but wants to make sure he gets the Nexus letter correct. He has had episodes of vertigo/dizziness on his service medical records as well as several ear issues. We got married 4 months after he got out of service, but were dating/engaged 2 years before. Since we have been married (1969) he has experienced dizziness and balance problems off an on. I'm sure he mentioned it to doctors through the years but we always thought it was inner ear infections since he had the hearing issues. The dizziness and loss of balance used to be maybe once a month, but progressively gotten worse over the years. The Neurologist has done MRI & MRA and has said in his medical records that it is likely caused by his noise exposure in the service. We are going to appeal the decision. Will it help if I write a Nexus letter indicating that I have witnessed his episodes of dizziness and loss of balance over the years? I plan to also go back to his Neurologist and possibly another doctor to have them write Nexus letters as well. If I write a statement, what should I say in my statement? I'm at a loss and just don't know what else we can do. Should I just give up or keep fighting?

Military Disability Made Easy

The most tinnitus can be rated is 10%, so if that isn't worth a fight, then it isn't. However, in most cases, MOS's listed as moderate should be granted service-connection, so you can always try to reapply. It's likely you could get a different outcome this time since that list didn't exist when you first applied 20 years ago.

Military Disability Made Easy

Yeah, definitely odd, but not enough evidence to deny your claim if you can still prove that you worked on the flight line.

Stu
Stu
4 years ago

Hi Dr. Johnson,. I have tinnitus and have had it since sometime during service. My Firecontrolman (FC) eating is in the list as moderate. I applied for a rating on tinnitus days after my discharge but it was denied. It is now keeping me up at nights and distracting me all day. I just don't know how I can prove it is service connected over 20 years later. I feel they wrongly denied me back then but I don't think that's worth a fight. What are your thoughts?

Dave K
4 years ago

also an FYI my hearing on my exit physical was 2 to 3 times better then my entrance physical which I really fined hard to believe

Military Disability Made Easy

AFSC 60551 became the current 2T2X1 Air Transportation MOS. The issue is that this MOS also covers desk jobs for people organizing air transportation, not just those loading the actual planes. If you can provide additional evidence that the majority of your work was on the flight line, you may be able to get them to change their decision.

Dave K
4 years ago

hi
I worked on the flight line loading cargo onto planes my old (1974) afsc was a 60551 don't know what it is now. I filed for hearing and tinnitus. was turned down for both they said I didn't connect it with my time in the service. Hearing came back as borderline of needing hearing aids and my job rating wasn't a high priority for tinnitus. How can working around planes with engines running not be a high priority noise.

Military Disability Made Easy

Hi Mike –

So you have a difficult case because of your MOS. Series 91 CTI is listed as Low probability on the hearing loss list, so your claim will be denied unless you have other proof that you were exposed to those loud signals regularly.

When you submit your claim, also submit evidence of being stationed onboard ships and submarines as often these environments are enough to establish hearing loss. Also, a letter from your commander or similar stating your environment and job specifications would support your case, but could be very difficult to obtain.

Howie (below) is correct that a VSO could help, but ultimately, getting the proof is going to be difficult if not impossible, so their help may not be beneficial in the end. However, a NEXUS letter could definitely help. Make sure your physician clearly states that he believes your tinnitus is "more likely than not" caused by your Navy work environment.

It is going to be very difficult to prove your claim, and I want you to be prepared that you may not be able to obtain enough evidence to be successful. Had your MOS been listed differently on the list, it would be a different story, but the VA is programmed to deny your claim since it is a low probability, so it is going to take effort and as much evidence as possible to get a favorable outcome.

Unknown
4 years ago

Mike Erch- I wish you the best of luck with your hearing issues. I too suffer from constant "ringing" of the ears(not to mentioned my hearing loss) attributed to my service while working of aircraft.
While filing a claim with the VA, I do recall having to obtain my military medical records(a time consuming issue)and getting thru the VA red tape. I suggest you obtain help with a VA service officer ( American Legion,or other Vet organizations) to assist you with your claim.
I would suggest you seek help from a medical professional (Non-VA medical professional) to help you with a VA- nexus letter. I wish you the best of luck with your claim and be prepared- it`s a slow process!!

Unknown
4 years ago

Hi, Navy CTT (series 91 CTI on the hearing loss list). I served 4 years from 71-75 onboard various ships and submarines. Orders were top secret so they dont go into detail where we were or what we were doing. Needless to say I was a radar Intercept person who listen to loud signals for 4 years through headphones. I have pretty bad tinnitus and would like to know what I might do to get this looked into by the VA.

Military Disability Made Easy

Hi Mike –

You can definitely apply for an increase and for secondary conditions. The VA will always increase your ratings if your conditions worsen, and they will cover any conditions that are clearly caused by service-connected conditions.

You just need to submit VA Form 21-526b:

http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/vaform21-526b.pdf

On the form in box 7, request an increase of your hearing loss. Then add tinnitus and balance problems under secondary disabilities.

Make sure to submit evidence of all of your conditions, including a letter from a physician that states that your secondary conditions are "more likely than not" caused by your original hearing loss.

Mike
5 years ago

Hello Doc,
My name is Mike T and I was in the Navy in the Late 80’s early 90’s. I was a Corpsman assigned to land, air and sea duty stations which involved direct and prolonged exposure to aviation noise prop and Jet Wash, a Sick Bay located directly over the Number 2 engine room aboard ship. And a tour with the Marines during the Gulf War. When I was discharged I was having significant hearing problems so I went to the VA. I was seen, tested, and diagnosed with Unilateral mid and high range hearing loss in my left ear. My right ear was also diagnosed but at the time they rated the worse of the two ears not both. I received a 20% rating. I never fought it, and psychologically denied my disability as I thought I was too young to be disabled. Now, I am 50 and my hearing loss has started to become acute. Constant and extremely loud tinnitus in both ears, pressure changes that give me an inability to hear for short periods and complete hearing loss when sleeping on right ear exposing only left ear. I have one to two balance issues per week including light headedness, room spinning when I stand suddenly, and room tilt when walking down long passage ways. I have within the past 5 years had to abandon my career as a Surgical Technologist and take a huge salary reduction ($20k per year) to work in Materials Mgmt. I could no longer hear the docs in surgery request instruments and I couldn’t read lips because of the surgical masks. I’m almost at my wits end. Is it within my rights to go back to the VA finally and seek help? Should I seek representation with the DAV? Please any advice would be helpful. Sincerely, Mike T.

Military Disability Made Easy

Hi David –

So the deviated septum is clearly recorded in your military medical records? If it is listed in the records as a result of those injuries, it should definitely be considered service-connected. However, if there isn't any evidence that the deviated septum occurred because of those injuries, that's where the problem lies. When does the deviated septum appear in your medical records? If it is more than a year after service, then there is no evidence that those injuries caused it, unfortunately. You may be successful in an appeal if you have a physician write a NEXUS letter that basically states that the deviated septum is "more likely than not" the result of those injuries.

Unknown
5 years ago

Hi Doc
Had my nose broken twice while on active duty in the seventies which resulted in deviated septum.
My question is why I wasn't considered service connected due to that since the date I was discharged since they were aware of it.

Military Disability Made Easy

MOS 11B has a high probability of hearing loss and tinnitus on the Duty Noise Exposure Listing:

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

So you will most likely qualify. Definitely apply:

http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/vadisabilityclaim.html

Military Disability Made Easy

Definitely submit again with this additional information. What they need most is to prove service-connection, and having these results from your military career does help.

The only negative is that you did have very minor hearing loss upon enlistment, but there you have an argument of at least service-aggravation, if nothing else, since it did worsen a little during your time in service.

Regardless, these numbers do not show serious hearing loss and would only qualify for a 0% rating based on the hearing loss rating system.

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

Unknown
5 years ago

Hello Doc. I've never filed for hearing loss plus tinnitus. My mos 11B Army,served in Veitnam for 18 months.my tinnitus has been ringing 24/7 for 35 years.Any advice filing a claim would be appreciated.

KLCayman07
5 years ago

Doc,
I was finally able to get my medical records from our state National Guard which is where it looks like they ended up. While the copies are poor, the records show my Audiometer results from enlistment, separation from active duty and separation from the Guard. My initial Audiometer scores were 0/5/10/15, my separation from active duty shows 5/10/15/20 and my final audiometer scores were all 25 across the spectrum.
Would this be sufficient to aid in my appeal to the VA?
Many thanks for your continued advice!

Military Disability Made Easy

Hi Mike –

With your MOS being low, it's going to be difficult to prove connection. Do you have record evidence of your circumstances? If you have records that show your regular exposure to loud engine noise, it may be enough to prove service-connection.

If you don't have this, however, you probably won't be successful.

Mike
5 years ago

I have had a "moderatley severe" hearing loss from my Navy days. This diagnosed in 2012 during a physical. Previous physicals many years ago had the same issue. My MOS for noise is low. I was in a carrier based fighter squadron very close to engine noise. My berthing compatment was just under the port catapult. No question about the hearing connection to me, asking for help just never occured to me. I am 67 now and did not realize I could qualify for disability until a neighbor explained VA benefits to me. Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

Military Disability Made Easy

I definitely see where you are coming from. Unfortunately, they are legally in the right since you do no have the required medical records. You can, of course, pursue this further, but without those records, it will most likely continue to be denied.

Military Disability Made Easy

If the VA physician orders a speech discrimination test and it, combined with the puretone threshold test, qualify you for a higher rating, you can apply for an increase. If he says your word recognition is poor, then talk to him about doing a speech discrimination test.

KLCayman07
5 years ago

Well I was denied by the VA for both Tinnitus and Hearing Loss. The VA couldn't locate my medical records and used that fact for denial even though my MOS has a high probability for hearing loss (13F). For the hearing loss claim the VA examiner confirmed hearing loss but opined "that it is less likely than not" that my hearing loss was due to military noise exposure. They provided the rationale that I had a high probability of hearing loss with an MOS of 13F; however my file did not contain and entrance or exit audio exam, so hearing during service cannot be determined without assumption. For tinnitus they didn't even list that they reviewed the VA examiners report.
I plan on appealing their decisions/denials with assistance from the DAV but wondered if I should also seek a legal route or professional medical assistance as this just doesn't seem right or fair.

Unknown
5 years ago

Currently receiving 20% disability for hearing loss, however VA did not factor in speech discrimination and opted to use decibel loss only. Having issues understanding words, VA doctor (audiologist) informed me my word recognition is poor and ordered a MRI. What options do I have?

Military Disability Made Easy

Since you were granted service-connection, they will increase the rating once you qualify for a higher one based on your test results: the puretone threshold average and the speech discrimination. Depending on your original tests, your hearing may have to worsen quite a bit before you qualify for the next rating. You can find the charts that show how the results are used to determine your rating on our site. Just compare your test results to the charts, and you can determine whether or not you were rated correctly.

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

OldUsedSpook
5 years ago

I too was an 05H and I have filed for, and was awarded, 10% for tinnitus and a "0" service connection for my hearing loss.

I was in the ASA from 1970-73.

I am, however, going for an outside the VA hearing test to determine if the VA is correct in it's latest assessment. I am having more and more daily problems, even with hearing aids, and the VA keeps telling me there is no real change.