Tinnitus VA Disability For Veterans
Did you know that tinnitus is the most common disability among American veterans and also affects 1 in 10 adults in the US? Tinnitus can significantly impact your life and hearing, causing loud sounds and making it difficult to hear normally.
If you're a veteran with tinnitus, you can qualify for VA disability benefits. However, many veterans find the process to be very complicated. In addition, many people experience problems with a claim denial.
Your first step is getting a better understanding of tinnitus claim qualifications and how much compensation you can qualify for. It's also best to find an experienced veterans disability lawyer to help you with your case.
In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about qualifying for a tinnitus VA disability claim. You'll also learn what to do if your disability claim is denied by the VA.
Overview of tinnitus
First, it's essential to understand more about tinnitus when filing a tinnitus disability claim.
When you have tinnitus, you'll experience impairment in your hearing: roaring, ringing, whistling, and clicking sounds nobody else can hear. Sometimes tinnitus involves soft sounds, but other times these sounds can be so loud that they block out external sounds.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Doctors don't know precisely what causes tinnitus, but it's thought to be due to abnormal activity in the part of your brain that processes sound.
Many people who have hearing loss also have tinnitus. If you've been in the military, you'll usually develop tinnitus from explosions or loud noises.
Tinnitus can result from one loud explosion or, over time, from long-term noise exposure. It can also occur from working in a noisy environment or as a result of loud music.
In other cases, tinnitus results from aging, certain medications, head trauma, or Meniere's disease.
Finally, many people suffer from secondary conditions related to tinnitus, such as:
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Growth in the middle ear or otosclerosis
- High blood pressure
- Hearing loss
Symptoms of Tinnitus
Tinnitus symptoms can vary, and you might experience symptoms in one or both ears. The most common symptoms of tinnitus include:
- Ear pain
- Hearing loss, full or partial
- Sleep deprivation
How Veterans Should File a Tinnitus VA Disability Claim
Tinnitus is the most common VA disability claim. If you're a veteran and suffer from tinnitus, you can be eligible to receive benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. You may qualify for a higher benefit if you have tinnitus along with other conditions like dizziness or hearing loss.
However, to qualify for VA disability, you'll need to prove that your military service is connected to your tinnitus diagnosis. To do this, you'll need to take specific steps that include:
Get a Medical Diagnosis or Gather Your Lay Evidence
Your first step is getting an official medical diagnosis of tinnitus or gathering your own evidence if you haven't done so already.
It's very important to know that Tinnitus doesn’t always have to be medically diagnosed to be eligible for service connection. A veteran's credible and competent lay evidence may be enough to prove that the veteran has this condition.
If you choose to go the medical diagnosis route, your doctor will first do a physical examination and check your ears for any apparent hearing issues. They'll also address your medical history and ask if you've spent time around loud noises or were exposed to a single event.
Next, you'll get a hearing test that involves testing your ability to hear a range of different tones. Your doctor will also typically check your eardrum and may order imaging tests like an MRI.
If you receive a diagnosis of tinnitus, recurrent tinnitus, or gather credible lay evidence, you are eligible to apply for and receive VA disability compensation.
Obtain a Nexus Letter
A VA nexus letter is a detailed report created by a neutral third-party doctor. This report links your current medical condition, such as tinnitus, to one or multiple events during your military service.
A nexus letter should contain the doctor's credentials, a review of your medical records, and the probability of the connection between your service and disability. It should also state the rationale of this medical opinion.
Establishing this connection is necessary for you to be able to receive VA disability benefits. While a nexus letter doesn't guarantee disability compensation, a strong one can give the VA the evidence it needs for your tinnitus claim.
It's essential to realize the more evidence you have of how your military service relates to your tinnitus, the better. Especially if you have an absence of medical records in your claim.
To gather enough evidence, you'll usually need to get statements from co-workers, family members, or friends. You might have heard these letters referred to as "buddy letters." Furthermore, it's best to find a reputable veterans disability lawyer in your area to help you with this process if your claim has been denied.
The VA will mainly focus on evidence that shows when your tinnitus began and how the condition affects your overall quality of life. They'll also look to see if your tinnitus has become worse over time or if you've experienced improvements.
Additionally, the VA will look for evidence that your tinnitus is linked to other health conditions.
Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing
We also recommend referencing the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing with your claim, so the VA Rater knows your military field. This table shows how the VA classifies the likelihood of noise exposure based on Military Occupational Specialty.
If the table lists your exposure level as “Moderate” or “Low,” you should explain how military service caused or made your Tinnitus or Hearing Loss worse.
If your MOS has a high probability of noise exposure, this can help your Tinnitus claim be approved.
VA Rating and Disability Payment Amounts
A VA rating is a rating assigned by the VA based on the severity of your disability. This rating is expressed as a percentage representing how much your disability affects your ability to function and overall health. Your rating can vary anywhere from 10% disability to 100% disability.
The disability rating you receive will determine how much disability compensation you ultimately get. Your rating is also used to determine if you're eligible for other benefits, such as VA health care.
Usually, for tinnitus on its own, you won't receive more than a 10% disability rating, which is a very low impairment rating. In addition, you must obtain a minimum of a 10% disability rating from the VA to qualify for monthly compensation.
According to the 2023 VA compensation rates, at 10% disability, you'll receive approximately $165.92 per month in disability benefits.
However, since tinnitus links to other medical conditions, you might also be able to receive a disability rating for these conditions if you have enough evidence to support the claim. As a result, instead of a 10% VA rating, you might be able to receive a 70% rating and receive substantially more each month.
Common Reasons VA Disability Benefits Claims Get Denied
Unfortunately, denied disability claims are a common occurrence. It's essential to understand the exact reason for your claim denial, which you'll be able to find in your denial letter. In some cases, the reason is for something simple; in other cases, it's much more complicated.
The most common reasons for claim denials include the following:
Just like applying for other benefits, you'll need to fill out various forms to apply for VA benefits. These forms include information about your medical history, service, and evidence of your disability.
If you don't complete a section of the document or fail to submit enough information for the VA to determine that you have a disability, your claim will be denied.
You might be able to fix this issue quickly by filling out the correct forms, but most times, it's more complicated than that.
Remember, to qualify for VA benefits, you'll need to have a diagnosed disability that relates to your military service. For the most part, this involves a solid diagnosis from a medical doctor for the VA to accept your condition as a disability.
Just having symptoms won't qualify you for benefits. The more detailed your doctor is about your diagnosis and symptoms, the better the chance of your claim going through.
In this case, you'll need to file an appeal and include more detailed medical documentation.
Since the VA rates your disability using a scale from 0 to 100% disability in 10% increments, there is a chance you'll receive a disability rating of 0%, meaning you won't receive any compensation.
Usually, this occurs when the VA doesn't recognize your symptoms as being severe enough to affect the quality of your daily life.
You'll need to file an appeal that provides more proof of the significance of your symptoms and how they affect you daily.
Suppose you have a pre-existing condition that hasn't worsened due to your military service. In that case, you won't be able to file a disability claim for that specific condition.
This is because the VA only approves claims for pre-existing conditions that worsened due to the time in service.
The VA may also determine that your medical condition is independent of your service if they don't see enough evidence that it was related to your service.
The VA will set up a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam for all veterans that file disability claims. This exam aims to determine the extent of your disability and whether or not your condition is service-connected.
However, sometimes the VA sets these appointments up without adequate notice. As a result, many veterans miss these appointments. If you miss this appointment, the VA will likely automatically deny your application.
You'll need to inform the VA you were unaware of the appointment when this occurs.
What to Do if Your Claim Is Denied
If your tinnitus claim is denied, you'll need to contact a VA disability attorney immediately for assistance. Due to the complex nature of denials, you'll need expert advice to navigate the process.
A VA disability attorney has experience fighting denials and filing appeals, so they know exactly what evidence you need for your claim.
You have a year from the date of your denial letter to file an appeal, so the sooner you contact an attorney, the better.
VA Disability Attorneys Help With Your Tinnitus VA Disability Claim
If you're a veteran suffering from tinnitus, it's best to have expert guidance when fighting your VA disability claim denial. This way, you'll get the compensation you need to be able to live your life to the fullest.
You won't have to look any further than Wettermark Keith Veterans Disability Lawyers for all your VA disability claim needs. We've been helping veterans with their disability claim denials for over 50 years and have an in-depth understanding of the claims and appeals process. We are passionate about fighting for the rights of those who fought for us first.
We also work on a contingent fee basis, which means you don't pay until you're awarded benefits for your claim.
Make sure you contact our law firm today and schedule a free consultation to get started!
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