If you’ve sustained a hearing loss while serving in the US military, then you could qualify for disability compensation. However, the process of getting disability compensation can be a little confusing, so I will walk you through the process of service connection and disability compensation for hearing loss.
As a US Marine, I was subjected to extremely loud noise on a regular basis. In fact, thousands of veterans suffer trauma to their hearing while serving in the military. Getting compensation for this hearing loss is very confusing – much like it is confusing for a lot of veterans on how to treat their hearing loss through the VA.
I asked Dr. Emily Raway, a VA audiologist*, and did research myself to determine myself the things that you need to know about service connection and how to get disability compensation if you suffered from hearing loss due to the military.
What is Hearing Disability Compensation?
Hearing disability compensation is a benefit for veterans who either incurred or aggravated a hearing disability while serving in the Armed Forces. This benefit can range anywhere from 10% to 100% disability.
Compensation is the responsibility or in the jurisdiction of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). If you are getting hearing aids, that is under the jurisdiction of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). They are two completely separate things.
If you are looking for hearing aids, you need to go through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), not the VBA. For more information, watch this video: https://youtu.be/DrIP88hZoh0.
Since we are discussing compensation, we will now turn to the VBA.
Enlist the Help of a Local VA Accredited Representative to Help You File a Claim
Local VA Accredited Representatives are great for helping you every step of the way through the entire process of filing a claim. There are three ways to find a local representative to help you file a claim.
- Go to ebenefits.va.gov to search for a local representative.
- Call 1-888-777-4443 to get in touch a local representative.
- Contact your VA Regional Benefits Office. They will be able to get you in touch with a local representative to help you file a claim.
Filing a Claim with the VBA
When you are ready to file a claim, you have a few options. You could go through the local VA Accredited Representative (details for finding one are listed above).
You could also file a claim online at www.ebenefits.va.gov.
Another option is to print out the Form 21-526EZ (found here https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526ez-ARE.pdf ), and fill it out. You can then fax it to 844-531-7818 if you are inside the US or to 248-524-4260 if you are outside the US. You may also mail the form to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
The hearing evaluation for your claim will be conducted at a completely separate place from where you get hearing aids. (They may be two different buildings or even in two different cities from where you typically go to get your VA healthcare.)
The hearing evaluation is a legal exam to find out if the hearing loss or hearing disability you have is related to or made worse by your time spent in the military. This exam will include a full case history and a comprehensive hearing evaluation. This will also be the time you share your symptoms, including dizziness, ringing of the ears, ear infections, and of course, hearing difficulty. You could also bring in other supporting information including private sector hearing evaluations or any other kind of medical information that you think is pertinent to your specific situation.
Important side note: I hate to bring this up, but audiologists are terrific at identify individuals who are faking a hearing loss. They use specific tests in order to identify if someone is faking on their hearing tests. Do yourself and other veterans a favor: if you do not have a hearing loss, do not schedule or file a claim for hearing loss compensation. (Keep in mind that dizziness or ringing of the ear may also be eligible for compensation.)
After the Hearing Evaluation
Once you are done with the hearing evaluation, they will not go over the results with you. If you have a clear hearing loss that they feel you could benefit from hearing aids, they may refer you back over to the VHA. Just remember, at the end of the compensation exam, it is not their job to actually fit you with hearing aids.
Once again, if you were under the impression that after the compensation exam you are getting hearing aids, you are incorrect. To learn more about getting hearing aids from the VA, watch my other video here https://youtu.be/DrIP88hZoh0.
After the compensation evaluation, they will take all of your information and your hearing evaluation, and send it off to the Service Office for them to conduct their rating process. There is no time table for this rating process, so it could be different for every individual who goes in for disability compensation.
Ultimately, the percentage rating that you receive will depend on the severity of your hearing related disability. If you end up getting rated at 0%, it does not mean that your hearing loss wasn’t either incurred by or aggravated by your time spent in the military. It just means that the amount of disability that you have does not warrant compensation. If you do not agree with your 0% rating, or whatever rating that they give you, you can actually appeal that decision.
I hope you find the information I’ve outlined here on service connection and compensation for a hearing related disability through the VBA useful.
*A special thank you to Dr. Emily Raway, a VA audiologist from the Minneapolis, MN VA, for making this video possible.