On November 20, 2019, Senator Tina Smith (MN) introduced S. 2810, the Veterans Hearing Benefits Act of 2019.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not provide a presumption of service connection for hearing loss or tinnitus. All veterans must establish exposure to acoustic trauma in service, provide a diagnosed hearing loss or tinnitus, and a medical opinion linking them together. However, this can be difficult to overcome as in many cases acoustic noise exposure in service is not documented or hearing exams were not provided.
- 2810 would consider hearing loss, tinnitus, or both, incurred in or aggravated by active military service for a veteran who served in combat and for veterans in a military occupational specialty or equivalent who were likely exposed to sufficient high levels of acoustic trauma to result in permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.
Veterans can be rated at 0% disabled for hearing loss and be required to use hearing aids. It is a general principle of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities that ratings are not offset by the function artificially restored by a prosthetic device. Therefore, veterans with a 0% rating for hearing loss that requires hearing aids should not be held to a different standard.
Additionally, S.2810 would require the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities to establish a minimum disability rating for a veteran who requires a hearing aid for a service-connected disability.
Consistent with DAV Resolutions Nos. 016 and 107, we support S. 2810, as it would provide presumptive service connection for hearing loss and tinnitus, while also providing a compensable evaluation for service-connected hearing loss that requires a hearing aid. Take action today and contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor and support S. 2810. Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.