Have you lost some or all of your hearing in the course of serving your country in the military? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that hearing problems are the most common service-connected disability. A 2015 Noise & Health study indicates that 71 percent of soldiers who served in Afghanistan or Iraq were exposed to loud noises, and 15 percent of this group reported experiencing ringing in their ears.
If your hearing loss is connected with your military service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. The VA states that as of 2020, there were more than 1.3 million veterans receiving disability benefits for hearing loss. There were also over 2.3 million veterans receiving VA disability benefits for tinnitus. Additionally, many veterans who are diagnosed with mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety) also have tinnitus.
At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we are dedicated to helping Tennessee veterans get the benefits they deserve. The VA disability benefits system is complicated, so we help people navigate it every step of the way.
Whether you need help submitting your VA disability claim or going through the appeals process, we are ready to assist. Call our Jackson, Tennessee, office at (731) 424-5559.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for VA Disability Benefits?
Deafness (complete hearing loss) isn’t the only hearing condition that veterans experience. Other common hearing problems are partial hearing loss, tinnitus (noise or ringing in the ears), and auditory processing disorder (difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments).
To be eligible for VA disability compensation for hearing loss, you must meet these requirements:
- You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
- You were honorably discharged
- Your hearing loss is linked to an injury or illness you got while serving in the military, OR
- You had a hearing issue before joining the military that your service made worse
You can apply for VA disability compensation if your hearing problems didn’t appear until after you were discharged but you can show they were related to your military service. If you didn’t receive an honorable discharge, you may be able to apply for a discharge upgrade to become eligible for benefits.
What Tests Are Required for a Hearing Loss Claim?
To file a VA disability claim, you need evidence to support your claim that your hearing loss is connected with your military service. If you were diagnosed with a hearing condition while you were still in the military, you can use your VA medical records as proof.
You can also submit private medical records. If your hearing loss was diagnosed by a non-VA medical provider, you can submit those records. You may also submit statements from family members and other people in your life (e.g., friends, clergy members) who can attest that your hearing loss started or worsened in connection with your military service.
Along with VA and/or private medical records related to your hearing issues, you will need to submit the results of two hearing loss tests as part of your disability claim:
- Pure tone audiometry test, which evaluates the level of your hearing loss
- Controlled speech discrimination test (a.k.a Maryland CNC test), which evaluates your ability to recognize speech
These tests must be administered by a licensed audiologist. Once you have your results, you can include them with your claim as supporting evidence.
How Do You File a Hearing Loss Claim?
You can file your disability claim for hearing loss online or print out and mail the form. You can also submit your application to a regional VA office in your area. Currently, the average time it takes for the VA to complete a disability claim is 156 days.
The VA will review your application and make a decision about your disability rating. This rating is what determines the amount of benefits you receive; the higher the percentage of your disability, the higher your benefits payments are. The VA’s disability rating schedule indicates that hearing loss can range from 0 percent to 50 percent, depending on severity. Tinnitus receives a 10 percent rating.
Hiring an attorney can make the whole VA disability claims process simpler. An experienced lawyer can help you make sure your initial claim is complete and has as much supporting documentation as possible to increase the chances of getting approved. If you do end up having to file an appeal for a denied claim, an attorney can help you with that too.
Get Expert Assistance With Your VA Disability Claim
As a veteran, you’ve honorably served your country and deserve to be taken care of, especially if you were injured in the line of duty. Hearing loss is something that many veterans experience, but the process of getting disability benefits for it can be overwhelmingly complicated.
At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we know how frustrating it can be to try to work through the VA claims process. We’re committed to helping Tennessee veterans get the benefits they deserve. We’ll guide you through the process from gathering evidence for the initial application to filing an appeal (if necessary).