On January 23, 2013, the Reducing Barriers to Veterans’ Benefits Act was introduced to the House (where it still is today) that would amend title 38 of the United States Code. If it passes into law, it will establish a presumption of service-connection for certain disabled American Veterans with tinnitus or hearing loss.
Tinnitus is the most common service-connected disability, affecting almost 841,000 and increasing more than 500% from 1999 to 2011. Hearing loss accounts for the second greatest service-connected disability, affecting almost 702,000 veterans.
Presently, all conditions must be proven to have been caused by military service in order for them to be eligible for VA disability. Satisfactory proof includes medical records showing evidence of the condition occurring or existing while the veteran was in the military, or documents recording that the veteran was exposed to circumstances (like explosions) that caused the conditions later on.
If this bill is passed into law, this proof will no longer be needed for veterans who qualify, even if their tinnitus or hearing loss does not develop until long after they have separated from the military.
Veterans who qualify include those who have served in combat during a period of hostility and/or veterans with a military occupational specialty that are likely to have been exposed to a sufficiently high level of ear trauma that typically is known to result in permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.
Ultimately, this act will make it much easier for veterans who develop hearing problems after leaving the military to claim the VA disability benefits they deserve.