ATA Invited To Testify on H.R. 1443 - The Tinnitus Research And Treatment Act

Advocating For Tinnitus Research in Washington, D.C.

ATA was honored to be asked to testify at a  July 9, 2013 the House Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Health Subcommittee hearing on veterans legislation that included H.R. 1443, the Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act, The bill, strongly supported by ATA, would:

  • Direct the Secretary of the VA to allocate appropriate resources for tinnitus research and treatment by the VA (including specific areas that need attention - for example "gap areas" in research);
  • Require the VA to cooperate with the Department of Defense (DoD)  Hearing Center of Excellence on Auditory Injury to carry out this research to advance the science for all who suffer and provide superior clinical care for tinnitus for United States veterans.

In response to an invitation by the Subcommittee to appear at the hearing, Susan E. Shore, Ph.D., (pictured right) Chair of ATA's Scientific Advisory Committee, traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify on behalf of ATA and give expert witness testimony on the current state of tinnitus research and needed areas of focus. She  acknowledged the growing increase in claims for tinnitus disability among veterans, highlighting the fact that, for the sixth year in a row, tinnitus is the leading service-connected disability for veterans from all periods of service. She also noted that tinnitus cost the VA $1.5 billion in disability compensation in 2012 alone.

Read Dr. Shore's full testimony here.

Though the hearing was intended to focus on a variety of different veterans-related bills, ATA was pleased to note that Representative Dan Benishek, Chair of the VA Subcommittee on Health, and Representative Julia Brownley, the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee, focused many of their questions on H.R. 1443 and appeared to take a specific interest in tinnitus as a growing health concern at the VA. Rep. Benishek, specifically asked the witness for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Robert Jesse, why the amount of research for tinnitus was so small, citing a figure of $10M – the figure ATA uses to note the total of all federal research on tinnitus, including research at the VA.

This prompted Dr. Jesse to clarify that the VA actually spends only around $1.2 million in research on auditory injury and to note that it was a small number in comparison to other research programs at the VA. 

In addition, Ranking Member Brownley offered a number of observations about tinnitus; "I wanted to follow-up again on tinnitus and with the role of the VA in it. It seems to me that $1.2. million is not enough for the VA's participation in it. It seems to me that if this is something, and clearly it is, that our veterans are suffering from, that the VA should be taking a significant leadership role in trying to lead the research. To find cures for this. It's clearly costing the VA a lot of money for treatment that doesn't seem to necessarily have great outcomes and I think always with research, if there's a will, there's a way. It feels to me very much like we should be in a better leadership role around this because it's our customers, it's our constituents who are suffering from it and we shouldn't be depending on sort of outside research in hopes of coming up with a cure." 

Rep. Brownley also focused much of her opening statement on H.R. 1443. Excerpts from her opening remarks follow:

The Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act of 2013 is offered by Ranking Member Michaud. According to the VA, tinnitus is the number one service-connected disability for veterans from all periods of service affecting over 840,000 veterans. Since 2005, the number of veterans receiving service-connected disability for tinnitus has increased by at least 15 percent each year and V.A. -- and the V.A. has been paying up over $1.2 billion annually to veterans for tinnitus disability compensation.

At the current rate of increase, service-connected disability payments to veterans for tinnitus will cost $2.26 billion annually by 2014. Nevertheless, only about $10 million is dedicated to researching tinnitus in the public and private sectors. H.R 1443 will allow for appropriate research time and resources by directing the V.A. to recognize tinnitus as a mandatory condition for research and treatment by the V.A. auditory centers for excellence.

You can read Rep. Brownley's full opening remarks here.

Rep. Brownley also noted  that "I am happy to hear that NIH (National Institutes of Health) and DoD are getting involved and recognizing this as a serious problem." ATA has worked to achieve this multi-agency cooperation, as we believe that advances in tinnitus research will ultimately benefit not only our nation’s veterans, who are disproportionately impacted by tinnitus, but all individuals who suffer with this disorder.

ATA was pleased to see that several veterans groups, including the Wounded Warriors Project and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, submitted statements for the record in support of H.R. 1443. Also, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) publicly endorsed H.R. 1443 in their testimony.

We thank Dr. Shore immensely for taking her time to travel to D.C., on behalf of the entire tinnitus community. Her expertise and willingness to testify on the scientific progress being made and what still needs to be done served not only veterans with tinnitus, but helped all who suffer from this condition. 

To watch the webcast of the Hearing click here and scroll down to the bottom and click the link where it says "watch webcast." 

While more work needs to be done in order to see H.R. 1443 enacted into law, ATA appreciates this opportunity to continue to educate and inform Members of Congress about tinnitus and to expand our outreach to policymakers who are in a position to help us in finding better ways to prevent, treat and cure tinnitus.

If you would like to help out, you can start by contacting your own Member of Congress and asking them to support and cosponsor H.R. 1443. Please take time to call and/or email your House Member of Congress to urge him/her to cosponsor H.R. 1443. You can access information on your House Member at the U.S. House of Representatives website at: House.gov/representatives/find/. If you are able to speak to the legislative assistant for your member who handles veterans-related issues, please do so.

If you have any questions about ATA's advocacy efforts, please contact tinnitus@ata.org.