Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for
The VA has specific ratings for hearing loss, which is quite common among military veterans. Hearing loss VA disability is available for service-related conditions, but you have to prove that the condition was caused as a result of military duty. You must have the following paperwork to submit to the Veterans Administration:
• A currently diagnosed hearing condition, such as hearing loss or tinnitus
• Evidence of your military service causing the hearing condition
• a doctor’s opinion linking your current hearing condition to your military service
The VA uses its “Schedule of Ratings Disabilities” to rate hearing issues (Section 4.87, and “diagnostic codes 6200 to 6260”). The rating scale is 0 to 100%; a zero rating is no disability and a 100% rating allows maximum hearing loss VA disability benefit payment.
The VA mostly sees claims for common hearing issues like hearing loss and tinnitus, but other disabilities of the ear and hearing are included in this rating:
• Loss of one or both ears. This rating is 30% for one ear and 50% for loss of both ears.
• A perforated eardrum (the VA will rate this at 0% because you can remain completely functional).
• Peripheral vestibular disorders (dizziness and balance issues caused by inner ear disorders). This is rated at 10% if the disorder causes occasional dizziness or 30% when accompanied by both dizziness and staggering or balance issues
• Cancer. A six-month period of a 100% after you complete cancer treatment
The VA does mostly see hearing loss issues when reviewing hearing loss VA disability claims. Hearing loss in military veterans usually results from exposure to loud noises, such as gunfire or airplane engine noise. The VA requires you to be examined and diagnosed by a licensed audiologist who must perform two specific tests.
The first test is the Maryland CNC test that measures speech recognition ability. The second test is a pure-tone audiometric test that is used to determine the level of hearing loss you have experienced. Both tests are required for the VA to perform a complete hearing loss VA disability evaluation.
If you use your own audiologist rather than one from the VA, that is fine; just make sure you tell them you need these two tests to satisfy VA requirements. These are standard tests that every audiologist should know. Prior to the tests, also be sure to remove hearing aids you may wear.
Your audiologist and doctor can learn more about caring for veterans with hearing loss by referring to the Veterans Health Initiative (VHI) study guide on hearing impairment. The guide provides an overview of how to diagnose, prevent, and treat veteran hearing loss.
The VA will use the results of these two tests to determine where your hearing disability lies on the scale of 0 to 100. (To see the actual formula VA uses, refer to Section 4.85 of the Code of Federal Regulations.) Typically, ratings for hearing loss fall around 0 to 10%, but VA does see cases of more severe hearing loss that does qualify for higher ratings.
Quite often, veterans don’t experience hearing loss until years after their military service, and that is fine, as you will still qualify for benefits. You must be able to demonstrate that you were exposed to a scenario that would likely lead to hearing loss in later years.
Tinnitus is also a common condition for hearing loss VA disability claims. It is a noise or ringing that you periodically or constantly hear in your ears. It can also be a buzzing sound. The only VA rating available for tinnitus is 10%, whether your ringing is in one or both ears, or periodic or constant.
If you have both conditions—hearing loss and tinnitus–the rating is additive, meaning one percentage for hearing loss and one for tinnitus.
The VA does offer certain special compensations for severe losses. For example, if you are deaf in both ears, the VA will pay an additional monthly benefit. You must have deafness in both ears; they will not pay this benefit for deafness in one ear.
It is very important to tie your hearing loss to active duty, which means full-time service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard. Reservists and National Guard members may also qualify if called to active duty. Dishonorable discharges will disqualify you for benefits as will a felony charge.
You can apply for disability benefits in your local VA office or you can fill out an online application (Application for Veterans Compensation and/or Pension). The process is straightforward and simple in most cases.
More and more, the VA sees cases of hearing loss caused by veteran exposure to noise. Veterans are also aging, and hearing loss occurs more frequently as you age.