WASHINGTON, DC — Despite being slowed in the US House of Representatives earlier this summer, the so-called Fit to Serve legislation–supported by the International Hearing Society (IHS)–is advancing in the US Senate this week. According to IHS, the Senate VA Committee will be holding a hearing on the bill this Wednesday.
Passage of the Veteran’s Access to Hearing Health Act of 2015 (H.R. 353) and its US Senate companion bill (S. 564), would essentially achieve a new provider classification for Hearing Aid Specialists within the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Supporters of the bill say it could significantly reduce wait times for care needed by veterans with hearing loss.
Audiology Organizations United in Opposition
Vocal opposition and lobbying efforts by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Association of VA Audiologists (AVAA), and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) helped prevent advancement of the House version of the bill (H.R. 353) in July of this year.
“Based on information obtained by ADA, we do not view the Veterans Hearing Aid Access and Assistance Act as a pathway to better access to hearing healthcare for veterans, but rather as a pathway to support IHS’ goal for expanded scope of practice for hearing aid specialists, without additional training or education.”
The audiology groups arguments against the legislation have also been supported by the VA itself. Past congressional testimony from Madhulka Agarwal, MD, a deputy undersecretary at the VA, indicated that the VA can and does already utilize hearing aid specialists within the VA system and that the new provider classification is “not necessary”.
Can Bill Withstand Opposition?
With wait times lasting months for audiological care at many VA facilities across the nation, supporters of the bill are hoping that it will be able to withstand the pressure and proceed to a committee hearing and advance through the Senate.
After being frustrated previously this summer, IHS leaders have already sent out calls to their members and have encouraged them to contact their legislators.
Both supporters and detractors of the legislation are continuing to keep a close eye on the progress of the bill as it makes its way through the US Senate.