This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits. Visit Stateside Legal (below) for assistance with legal issues.
NOTE: Letters in my Q&A columns are reprinted just as they come to me. Spelling and grammar are left as is and only small corrections are made to improve readability, ensure anonymity or delete expletives that may offend some readers. This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits.
Your articles and responses are very valuable. I have a question from an article I read concerning hearing loss. I recently went to the
Cleveland VA for a periodic exam. I currently have SC 0% for hearing loss and 10% for tinnitus. The article stated: "The measurements the hearing examiner gets from the testing is sent to the Regional Office .. And the results are sent to the Rating Board where they are put into a computer.”
My question from the article is this automatically sent to the Regional Office after the examination at the VA? Or will I have to send a claim form for an increase in previous SC condition to the VARO?
Great question. Thanks. You must ask for an increase. The article you quote is sort of correct but refers to results of a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam, not a periodic health check-up.
The system has a number of cracks in it that don't always leave one with a clear picture of just how things work. If someone at the Regional Office (RO) were prowling through your file and noticed that
your hearing loss was worse, the claim would be seen as "inferred" and they would be required to adjudicate just as if you had made a claim. But if nobody notices, it's up to you to bring it to their attention.
Seeking an increase is simple. All you need do is to write a letter detailing what you want them to consider. That triggers the process and you're off to the (turtle) races. It will take about a year to get
the adjudication in most locales...the backlog and all that.
If you aren't happy, particularly with hearing ratings, it's usually worth the investment to have a civilian audiologist do an exam. Print out the rules of how VA determined the ratings for hearing loss and
spend some time showing that to the civilian audiologist. Often enough there is a significant difference in exams that will lead to a better (more fair) rating for you.
Hearing loss is common for soldiers coming home from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, but another perhaps equally vexing problem is a condition that causes them to hear sound that isn't there.
Hearing loss affects more veterans than most can imagine. From the first day of basic training we were subjected to noises that most civilians will never hear.
The Veterans Administration has strict regulations governing hearing loss and disability compensation. The veteran who wants to see a benefits award must be prepared to fight and appeal.
The VA uses a strictly defined criteria to determine the degree of hearing loss. An examination for hearing loss must be conducted by a licensed audiologist and include controlled speech discrimination test (Maryland CNC) and a puretone audiometry test.
The results of the tests are then calculated according to a system of tables to arrive at a percentage of the disability attributed to hearing loss.
The veteran who is applying for a hearing loss benefit should consider the degree of tinnitus that he or she may have that often accompanies acoustic trauma and hearing loss.
Also to be considered are any psychological or mental health and safety considerations that sometimes result from hearing loss. If the veteran believes that hearing loss and tinnitus have caused or aggravated anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD or otherwise contributed to a loss in the quality of the veteran's activities of daily living, those facts should be recorded for consideration.
Dr. Peter Weber has written an excellent Knol that addresses many scientific and technical details about hearing loss here.
MORE on Hearing Loss:
Ed Ball is a Veterans' Service Officer in Sidney, Ohio.
I want to thank Ed for allowing me to pass this on to you.
Ed's advice below:
As a result of filing numerous tinnitus and hearing loss claims, ("and getting the veterans awarded more times than not - audiograms/speech discrimination didn't support moderate to severe hearing loss"), I've been amazed by the number of veterans that seem to think since they can't prove exposure to traumatic acoustic events in their military career, they just won't file. (Combat veterans - hearing loss is conceded as happened in service by VA, rated based on current audiogram and speech discrimination figures.)
Noise Induced Hearing Loss;
Given the medical evidence supports the claim based on the 1000 to 4000 hz frequency range along with indicators for speech discrimination for disability purposes, recommend folks talk up their exposure to noise in the military when visiting their doctors for hearing exams and make sure it's noted in the exam.
(i.e., (+) Severe noise exposure in military) or if the veteran has copies of his/her medical service records, and can show audiograms periodically since released from active duty, they may be able to get a medical opinion to support their claim.
Veterans must be able to show two key factors:
1. Traumatic Acoustic Event
2. Disability incurred in Service
As the VA has a "Duty to Assist" will their raters look up the impulse noise levels? I don't believe so, that's why I provide all the information up front.
Hope this helps,
Veterans Service Office
133 S. Ohio Ave.
Sidney, Ohio 45365