VA Case Update: Evaluation of Hearing Loss
A recent decision from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) has clarified how VA examiners and VA rating specialists are to treat claims for hearing loss. Specifically, which symptoms of hearing loss warrant extra-scheduler evaluations. VA compensation ratings for hearing loss generally are assigned based on objective hearing tests conducted by the VA or an independent audiologist. These objective tests help rating specialists evaluate the severity of a Veteran's service connected hearing loss under the VA's diagnostic code. The VA diagnostic code also relies on the evaluation of the functional impact hearing loss has on a particular Veteran. These functional impacts are categorized as audiological or non-audiological, audiological impacts such as inability to hear or understand speech or other sounds in various contexts. The diagnostic criteria contemplates the effects of audiological impacts on a Veteran's compensation rating, but not non-audiological impacts.
The recent CAVC case of Doucette v. Shulkin held that certain non-audiological impacts that are not contemplated in the diagnostic criteria should be evaluated on an extra-scheduler basis to determine whether an increased rating is warranted. Examples of non-audiological impacts of hearing loss would be ear pain, dizziness, recurrent loss of balance, or social isolation due to difficulties communicating. These impacts could contribute to a Veteran's claim for an increased compensation rating for hearing loss even if the Veteran's audiological test results have remained the same. Therefore, this recent decision could allow for more Veterans to receive increased ratings for hearing loss based on symptoms other than those accounted for in a traditional hearing test.
If you are a Veteran who receives compensation for hearing loss due to military service and display the symptoms listed above, please contact the experienced Veterans' disability attorneys at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly serves Veterans across the United States from their home office in Mobile, Alabama.