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VA Proposes to Eliminate Tinnitus as a Standalone Disability

Posted by Gregory M. Rada | February 16, 2022 | Firm News

The VA announced that it is beginning the process of amending its regulations to eliminate tinnitus as a standalone disability. Instead, tinnitus will only be evaluated as part of an underlying condition, such as hearing loss, Meniere’s disease, or TBI. Keep in mind this is currently only a proposal and has not been finalized.

Why is VA Revising the Regulation for Tinnitus?

The VA continuously revises the rating schedule to be consistent with up-to-date medical knowledge.

VA stated it is making this change for tinnitus because “current medicine reflects that tinnitus likely results from abnormal neural activity at some point or points in the auditory pathway, which is incorrectly interpreted by the brain as an actual sound” and “as a result, it is a symptom associated with an underlying condition, such as hearing loss, Meniere’s disease, traumatic brain injury and cerebral atherosclerosis, not an independent disease.” It’s interesting to note that VA cites to a study from 1990 for this conclusion — hardly “currently medicine.”

How Will this Work?

The bottom line is that VA will no longer award separate service connection and ratings for tinnitus. They are proposing to completely eliminate the rating criteria for tinnitus.

Instead, a veteran will have to prove they have an underlying condition that causes the tinnitus. Even then, tinnitus won’t get its own rating — VA will rate it as part of the underlying condition.

For example, if you have a noncompensable rating for hearing loss, but you have tinnitus, then VA is proposing that you would get a 10% rating for the hearing loss with tinnitus. But again, you’ll have to prove service connection for hearing loss before you can get the 10% rating for hearing loss with tinnitus. This means veterans who have tinnitus without VA’s definition of hearing loss won’t be compensated for their tinnitus.¬†And if you have hearing loss that is compensable (i.e., it is rated at 10% or more), you won’t receive any additional rating for tinnitus.

Will this Change Impact my Current Service Connection or Rating for Tinnitus?

No. Veterans who are already service connected and in receipt of the 10% rating for tinnitus will not be impacted by this change. The new regulation will only apply to new claims for tinnitus.

Is there Anything Else I Should Know about the New Rating Criteria?

This is currently a proposal and won’t go into effect until months after this blog post. Moreover, there’s a chance it doesn’t go into effect all.