WASHINGTON, D.C. — With Veterans Day around the corner, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to reduce the red tape many veterans face when trying to get care for hearing loss as a result of their service—something many veterans say is an enormous burden despite being the most common service-connected ailment.
Sen. Smith heard about this problem through her office’s veterans’ health care tour last year, which visited some 10 communities throughout Minnesota to hear what health challenges veterans face.
Hearing Loss & Tinnitus Common Among Veterans
Currently, veterans receiving benefits through the VA must document hearing loss or tinnitus incurred while in the line of duty in order to qualify for benefits when seeking treatment for these conditions. However, many veterans are not diagnosed until after they are discharged. This places a significant burden on veterans to prove that their hearing loss or tinnitus is the result of their time in the military.
Sen. Smith’s legislation—the Veterans Hearing Benefit Act—would provide presumption for hearing loss and tinnitus to veterans who served in combat or in a military specialty where they were exposed to repeated loud noises, such as those who worked around heavy artillery, thus making it easier for veterans to establish service-connection and get the benefits they’ve earned.
“The agreement for the men and women who serve in our military is this: if you’ve experienced a health related issue because of your sacrifice, it’s our job to take care of you. I’ve heard from Minnesotans who have to jump through hoops before getting access to care for hearing loss—which is widespread among veterans—and I’ve introduced this bill to make sure veterans in Minnesota and states across the country get the care they deserve.”
–Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN)
The Veterans Hearing Benefits Act would also amend the Schedule for Rating Disabilities to provide a minimum compensable evaluation for any service connected hearing loss for which a hearing aid is medically required.
Last year, Sen. Smith tasked her staff with traveling across the state as part of her “Veterans Listening Tour” to hear about the challenges veterans face in securing benefits, and to explain how her office can advocate on their behalf. In these meetings, Minnesota veterans brought up having trouble receiving coverage for hearing loss.