Local veterans concerned about change to disability benefits for tinnitus, sleep apnea and mental health

NEW YORK (WABC) — Local veterans are concerned about the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposal to remove tinnitus as a stand-alone disability and change the language surrounding a sleep apnea-related disability.

The VA made the announcement in February and said in an email to veterans, “The proposed updates to the scoring schedule for these conditions will allow VA to incorporate modern medical data and terminology to provide veterans more accurate and consistent decisions.Veterans who are currently receiving compensation for a service-related condition in these bodily systems will not affect their disability rating when the VA Scale for Assessment Disabilities is updated.”

The VA expects to save $57.1 billion over 10 years from tinnitus and sleep apnea language updates.

“We don’t like that these changes are about to happen and we have to believe that nothing is going to happen to us,” said Army veteran John Rodriguez.

Patrick Donohue, founder of the Project 9 Line veterans outreach group in Islip, said he was trying to get more information from the VA about the medical studies they used to make the decisions and how the VA offers d saving tens of billions of dollars while also “more specifically compensating veterans for their service-related disabilities.”

Donohue worries that fewer veterans will be able to get disability benefits under the new rules.

“To take that away or make it harder for any vet to get those benefits is unfair,” he said. Donohue said he was disturbed that he said he knew veterans who had recently had sleep apnea tests, but the VA was not rendering a decision on their cases.

Long Island veteran Shaun Thompson said he had a sleep apnea test two months ago. He just got a letter from the VA saying a decision on whether he should receive compensation is “deferred”.

Eyewitness News contacted the VA to ask for the various medical studies on which it based its proposals, but the VA said it could not provide us with the information by the deadline.

The VA also offers a reassessment of mental health conditions based on “a more robust and holistic approach that assesses the impact of disability on cognition, interpersonal relationships, task completion, life activities, and self-care. “.

Proposals cannot be approved until they have gone through a 60-day public comment period, which ends on April 18.

More information about the proposals can be found here https://www.regulations.gov/document/VA-2022-VBA-0009-0001 and here https://www.regulations.gov/document/VA-2022- VBA-0010-0001

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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