The Sound of Service: how do you prove tinnitus is service-connected?

Key Takeaways

Tinnitus is a debilitating condition that affects millions.
Tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans.
Tinnitus can be a symptom of underlying health problems.
Veterans need a diagnosis, service evidence, and a medical nexus to get disability.
Veterans can file a claim online or Wettermark Keith’s VA attorneys can help appeal a denied claim.

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The Sound of Service: how do you prove tinnitus is service-connected?

Key Takeaways

Tinnitus is a debilitating condition that affects millions.
Tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans.
Tinnitus can be a symptom of underlying health problems.
Veterans need a diagnosis, service evidence, and a medical nexus to get disability.
Veterans can file a claim online or Wettermark Keith’s VA attorneys can help appeal a denied claim.

Read more on proving tinnitus to the VA.

Tinnitus is a frustrating and often debilitating condition that affects millions of people, including many veterans. For veterans suffering from tinnitus, it is often one of several service-connected disabilities they face. The VA disability rating system caps compensation for tinnitus alone at 10%, which can make it difficult for veterans to get adequate support. However, it is possible to file for additional disability ratings for related conditions like headaches, migraines, or Meniere's disease as secondary to tinnitus. 

By understanding the claims process and providing medical evidence linking these other conditions to tinnitus, veterans may be able to increase their overall rating. In this blog post, we will cover the steps veterans can take, from filing their initial claim to appealing with the help of a disability attorney. With the proper tools and legal support, veterans can successfully receive the benefits they deserve and get the help they need to manage their tinnitus and related conditions.

What is tinnitus and what are the most common tinnitus symptoms?

Tinnitus is a medical condition where an individual could hear in one or both ears a variety of noises such as: ringing, roaring, high-pitched whistling, buzzing, or clicking. The noise is not caused by an external sound and is not something that other people can hear. Doctors are still unsure of what can cause Tinnitus, but it is believed to be linked to the brain’s ability (or lack thereof) to process sound. Tinnitus affects about 15% to 20% of people across the nation, is especially common in older adults, and it is the number one disability among all veterans. The overwhelmingly common cause for tinnitus in veterans is the frequent exposure to loud sounds from combat.

People with tinnitus could hear soft sounds or the noises could become so overwhelming it blocks out external sounds around the individual. Tinnitus improves with treatment, but there is no cure. The treatments for tinnitus that may be able to reduce your symptoms include counseling, noise suppression devices, hearing aids, and other unique treatments.

What serious conditions are related to tinnitus?

While tinnitus is not a serious medical condition alone, it can be a symptom of underlying health problems. Some serious conditions related to tinnitus include:

Hearing loss

The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss, which can occur due to aging, exposure to loud noise, ear infections, and other factors. Tinnitus associated with hearing loss can be a sign of damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve.

Meniere's disease

Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause tinnitus, vertigo, hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. It is caused by an abnormal buildup of fluid in the inner ear and can lead to permanent hearing loss if left untreated.

Acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous tumor that grows on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. It can cause tinnitus, hearing loss, and balance problems.

Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a condition in which the bones in the middle ear become fixed, leading to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

TMJ disorders can cause tinnitus, as well as jaw pain, headaches, and difficulty chewing.

High blood pressure

Tinnitus can be a symptom of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

TBI can cause tinnitus, as well as other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and memory problems.

In some cases, tinnitus is not a sign of further serious medical condition, and it is often managed through treatments and lifestyle changes. If you are experiencing tinnitus, schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How do you prove a service connection to the VA?

To prove a service connection to the VA, you must establish three things:

1. Current diagnosis of the medical condition

You must have a current medical diagnosis of the condition you are claiming. This can be done by providing medical records from your current doctor, or by undergoing a medical evaluation through the VA.

2. Evidence of an in-service event or injury

You must provide evidence that the condition you are claiming is related to an event or injury that occurred during your military service. This can be done by providing documentation of the event, such as service records, medical records, or testimony from witnesses.

3. A medical nexus linking the current diagnosis to the in-service event or injury

You must provide medical evidence that links your current diagnosis to the in-service event or injury. This can be done by providing medical opinions from doctors or other medical professionals that explain how the in-service event or injury caused or contributed to your current condition.

The VA will evaluate the evidence you provide and make a determination as to whether there is a service connection for your condition. If the VA determines that there is a service connection, you may be eligible for disability compensation and other benefits. If they do not determine a disability service connection, then you can reach out to a VA attorney for further assistance. The process of proving a service connection can be complex and time-consuming, which is why a VA attorney can be extremely helpful for denying your appeal.

How to claim tinnitus as a service connected disability:

If you are a veteran and have service connected tinnitus, you may be eligible to receive disability compensation from the VA. Below are the steps you can take to claim tinnitus:

1. Gather your medical records

You will need to provide evidence that your tinnitus began during your military service or was made worse by your service. This can include medical records, audiology test results, and any other documentation that supports your claim.

2. File a claim

You can file a claim for disability compensation online through the VA's eBenefits website or by mail using VA Form 21-526EZ. Make sure to include all the relevant medical records and documentation with your claim.

3. Attend a compensation and pension (C&P) exam

The VA may schedule a C&P exam to evaluate your tinnitus and determine the degree of your disability. During the exam, you will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, and any other relevant information.

4. Wait for a decision

The VA will review your claim and all the evidence you have provided, including the results of the C&P exam. If your claim is approved, you will receive disability compensation based on the severity of your tinnitus.

5. If denied, contact an attorney

If your VA claim for tinnitus is denied, you can appeal the decision with the help of a VA disability attorney at Wettermark Keith. Our VA Attorney will review the denial letter and gather additional evidence if necessary. Then, they will file an appeal with the VA. The appeals process can be lengthy and complex, but it's worth pursuing if you believe your claim was wrongly denied. The VA team at Wettermark Keith has successfully handled thousands of appeals. Contact us today so that we can get started on your case.

It's important to note that the VA has specific criteria for determining whether tinnitus is a service-connected disability. In general, you must have a current diagnosis of tinnitus and evidence that the condition began during your military service or was aggravated by your service.

How much compensation do you get from veterans benefits for tinnitus?

The amount of compensation a veteran can receive for tinnitus depends on the severity of the condition and its impact on the veteran's ability to work and perform daily activities. The VA uses a rating system to determine the severity of a disability, starting from 10% and increasing in 10% increments. The rating is based on the frequency, volume, and nature of the tinnitus, as well as its impact on the veteran's ability to function.

For example, a veteran with mild tinnitus that does not significantly affect their daily activities may receive a rating of 10%, which corresponds to a monthly compensation rate of $165.92. In contrast, a veteran with severe tinnitus that significantly affects their ability to work and perform daily activities may receive a higher rating, which corresponds to a higher monthly compensation rate.

VA disability compensation rates are subject to change, and each case is evaluated on an individual basis. If you have questions about your eligibility for compensation or the amount of compensation you may receive, you can contact a VA attorney from Wettermark Keith.

Does the VA offer other benefits that help veterans with tinnitus?

The VA offers many benefits that can help veterans with tinnitus and their quality of life. Some examples include:

Hearing aids

The VA provides hearing aids to eligible veterans who have a service-connected hearing loss or tinnitus. These devices can help improve hearing and reduce the severity of tinnitus.

Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)

TRT is a type of therapy that uses sound therapy and counseling to help veterans habituate to their tinnitus and reduce its impact on their daily life. The VA offers TRT to eligible veterans at select VA medical centers.

Disability compensation

As mentioned earlier, veterans with tinnitus that is connected to their military service may be eligible for disability compensation from the VA. This compensation can help offset the financial burden of managing tinnitus and its associated symptoms.

Vocational rehabilitation and employment (VR&E)

VR&E offers counseling, training, and job placement services to eligible veterans with service-connected disabilities, including tinnitus. These services can help veterans with tinnitus develop the skills and resources they need to succeed in the workforce.

Mental health services

Tinnitus can have a significant impact on a veteran's mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and other related conditions. The VA offers a range of mental health services, including counseling and medication management, to help veterans manage these symptoms.

If you are a veteran with tinnitus, you need to submit your claim to the VA for your benefits. If you are denied disability, do not hesitate to contact a VA attorney from Wettermark Keith.

What if my disability claim is denied?

If your disability claim is denied by the VA, you have the right to appeal the decision.Your lawyer will file your claim again, and you should know that the appeals process can be lengthy and complex. If you are denied disability, contact an attorney from Wettermark Keith today to get the appeals process started. 

If the VA denies your claim, you can appeal it. The VA will send you a letter explaining why your claim was denied. You and a VA disability attorney should review this letter carefully to understand why the VA denied your claim. If your attorney thinks that the VA denied your claim based on insufficient evidence, they will gather additional evidence to support your claim, including medical records, service records, and statements from witnesses. 

Before starting a formal appeal, consider filing a supplemental claim or requesting a higher-level review to get your case re-evaluated. Your lawyer can gather and submit additional evidence to support your claim. If those options are unsuccessful, your attorney can help file a Notice of Disagreement to formally begin the appeals process. Note that appeals can be lengthy and complex.

Contact an attorney from Wettermark Keith as soon as possible after a denial to discuss your options and initiate the appeals process. Don't give up - you may still be able to get your VA disability benefits.

Wettermark Keith: VA Disability lawyers for your tinnitus claim

When applying for a disability claim in regard to your tinnitus, there is a possibility that your application will be denied by the VA. That’s where Wettermark Keith can help. When you partner with Wettermark Keith, you’ll have a team of knowledgeable individuals working for you, making sure that you don’t back down from getting your benefits. Our VA Attorneys are accredited by the Veterans Administration to represent veterans in claims for benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs, and our only goal is to obtain the resources you need to live the rest of your life with comfort and support.

With offices located throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Florida, Wettermark Keith has an excellent reputation as one of the most accomplished personal injury firms in the country. We have a diverse range of practice areas, including Veterans Affairs. We practice with care and compassion, making sure we understand your disability and convey that to the VA as best as we can. We do this by building strong relationships based on constant communication, trust, and a dedication to the truth. Caring for you is our goal, and winning is just how we show it. Contact us to set up your free consultation with an attorney at Wettermark Keith by calling us or contacting us through our online form.

Frequently Asked Questions

The VA does have ways of evaluating a veteran's tinnitus at a compensation and pension (C&P) exam, which is performed on a veteran after they apply for disability. During this exam, the VA can evaluate the tinnitus through test results from a few different speech recognition and pure tone threshold tests. A doctor will check the severity through these test results, and this will be viewed as a main factor in determining if the veteran will receive benefits.

Yes, just like any other VA claims, you may be denied disability for your tinnitus claim. When it comes to these claims, the most common reason for denial is a lack of evidentiary support for their disability. Sometimes this can be an easy resolution; yet, other times, the VA makes this process extremely complex. In order to have the best outcome in appealing a denial, you should contact a VA disability lawyer from Wettermark Keith. They will be able to appeal your denial efficiently, making sure you get the best compensation possible.

No, there is no known cure for tinnitus as of today. Currently, treatments generally involve masking the sound or learning to cope with the sound. There are currently government entities researching tinnitus to try to develop a cure. The National Institute of Health is attempting to see if they can develop a way to reverse tinnitus by resetting the way the brain processes sound; yet, as stated before, tinnitus currently remains uncured.

According to the VA, the maximum rating for tinnitus will always be 10%. However, this does not mean that a veteran with tinnitus will only ever have a VA rating of 10% maximum. A veteran can receive an increased rating if their tinnitus directly led to or worsened another serious condition. Their rating could also increase if their tinnitus was caused by an injury or diseases contracted during their time in the service.

A compensation and pension (C&P) exam is administered by the VA only after a veteran files for a compensation or pension claim. It is part of the review process that helps the VA determine that your disability is service connected, the level of your disability, and the rating of your disability. When it comes to tinnitus directly, the VA evaluates veterans’ conditions through test results from a few different speech recognition and pure tone threshold tests.

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