VA Disability Benefits
The VA encourages Service members applying for VA disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus to do so through its Pre-discharge Program before leaving the service.
Similar programs include:
- Integrated Disability Evaluation System for Service members who are deemed medically unfit to perform their duties
- Benefits Delivery at Discharge, and
- Quick Start for separating Service members, depending on their separation dates and availability for disability exams
The VA and DoD also offer a Separation Health Assessment, or SHA program. The SHA program requires that every service member receive a multi-system physical exam, including an audiogram, before they separate from service. Exams may be provided at DoD or VA facilities. This exam is designed to provide Service members with information about their current health status at the time of separation.
Auditory Injury Evidence
When applying for disability benefits, Service members must provide information that enables the VA to assist them in completing their claims for disability and that may support their claim, such as medical exam records. Veterans must provide proof of their Veteran status, such as DD214 discharge or separation papers, or the equivalent.
The Veterans Benefits Administration, or VBA, is responsible for obtaining all service records, if available. The VBA also has to request a medical exam to determine a veteran’s current disability for the condition or conditions that they are claiming. If necessary, the VBA requests an expert opinion to determine if a current disabling condition was caused by or was the result of military service, or if a pre-existing condition was aggravated by military service. These exams are provided at no cost to Veterans. These exams may be provided at VA facilities by authorized VBA contractors or by VA-authorized providers in the community.
Establish Auditory Injury Direct-Service Connection
To qualify for disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus, military members must prove to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that their auditory injury is a result of their active-duty military service. Members of the National Guard or Reserve who are called to active duty, or who are injured while on active or inactive duty for training may also file claims for disability.
The following must be established for a successful disability claim:
- Current diagnosis of hearing loss or tinnitus that meets VA criteria for disability
- Evidence of a plausible in-service event or circumstances that caused the auditory injury, and
- Medical opinion linking the current hearing loss or tinnitus to the event or circumstances in service
Hearing Loss Testing Requirements
The VA utilizes defined criteria to determine the degree of hearing loss. To be service connected, the auditory injury must be diagnosed by a licensed audiologist and include BOTH of these tests:
- Maryland CNC Test, which measures speech-recognition ability, and
- Pure-Tone Audiometric Test that evaluates the level of hearing loss
Both tests must be taken WITHOUT the use of hearing aids.