Tester introduces bill to improve care for veterans with hearing loss
With hearing loss a signature injury of recent wars, Senator takes action
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is introducing legislation to help tackle a signature, unaddressed injury of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: hearing loss.
Hearing loss and tinnitus – constant ringing in the ears – are among the most common injuries facing veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hearing loss can contribute to depression, heightened stress, fatigue, and other challenges veterans face as they reintegrate into civilian life.
Tester’s bill will improve the care these veterans receive by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire hearing aid specialists. Currently, the VA relies on audiologists to treat these veterans. The Montana VA largely relies on contract audiologists.
Hiring hearing aid specialists will expand the pool of providers that can help veterans, making the delivery of care more efficient and effective.
“Every veteran deserves timely, high-quality health care – and that care must adapt to the changing nature of war,” Tester said. “More veterans than ever are returning home with seen and unseen injuries, including hearing loss. The VA must make sure these heroes get the care they need so they can reintegrate into society and support their families and communities.”
In February, an independent VA watchdog said that better staffing was needed to reduce wait times and increase the quality of care for veterans with hearing loss. More than 1.7 million veterans received veterans’ benefits from the VA for hearing loss or tinnitus in 2012.
Tester’s bill is supported by veterans’ advocacy groups, including AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Vets First. It is also backed by medical organizations, such as the National Medical Association and the International Hearing Society.
“Improving access to hearing healthcare is critical to ensuring the quality of life and future success of the men and women who have served our country,” said First Sergeant Matthew Eversmann, U.S. Army (Ret.), who suffered hearing loss as a result of combat in Somalia. “I appreciate Senator Tester leading the U.S. Senate on this vital issue.”
Tester efforts to improve veterans’ health care include introducing and sponsoring bills to reduce the veterans’ claims backlog, increase staffing at VA health facilities and improve care for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Tester’s bill is co-sponsored by fellow Montana Senator John Walsh, Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.). Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.