Jim Strickland is a Vietnam era Army veteran and nationally recognized expert on VA disability benefits.

Jim writes extensively about VA and Social Security disability benefits. 
Jim's Mailbag is a regular column featured at  Stateside Legal  where veterans, servicemembers,
and family members can  ask Jim their questions  about VA and Social Security disability benefits. 

Hearing Loss Now A Military Epidemic

U.S. soldiers and Marines caught in roadside bombings and firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home

in epidemic numbers with permanent hearing loss and ringing in their ears, prompting the military to redouble its efforts

to protect the troops from noise. Hearing damage is the No.1 disability in the fight against terror, according to the

Department of Veterans Affairs, and some experts say the true toll could take decades to become clear.

Hearing loss and tinnitus can cause significant

mental health challenges. 

If your hearing loss and tinnitus are leaving you depressed or otherwise suffering from mental health issues, you may have a secondary service connection that may be rated.

Talk with Dr. Valette todayand ask if you may be service connected for your hearing loss and subsequent mental health problems.

F.D.A. Clears Path for Hearing Aids to

be Sold Over the Counter
The agency issued a final rule that took years

to complete and opens the door to cheaper,

more accessible devices without a

prescription or medical exam.

VA Research on Hearing Loss

​Hearing loss affects approximately 37.5 million Americans aged 18 and over, including more than half

of those over age 75. Hearing problems—including tinnitus, which is a perceived ringing or other type

of noise in the ears—are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American Veterans.

What is acoustic trauma?

​Acoustic trauma is an injury to the inner ear that’s often caused by exposure to a high-decibel noise. This injury can occur after exposure to a single, very loud noise or from exposure to noises at significant decibels over a longer period of time.

C & P exam?

I am a Camp Lejeune contaminated water survivor. In Feb. 2022 I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which is on the CLCW presumptive illness list for compensation. I meet the requirements as set forth by the VA. My VSO filed a claim in the middle of March. Now a week ago the VA notified me I will have to attend a C&P exam. My question is: since I qualify as a contaminated water survivor and have a diagnosis, which is the 2 requirements for this to be service connected, why is the VA requiring me to attend a C&P exam? Thank you for your time. 

Jim's Reply:
As you read through this keep in mind that I'm a professional cynic, a curmudgeon by nature. I'm also a Lejeune survivor, I was a child when dad was stationed there...we lived at Tawara Terrace so we had the full benefit of the contamination. Both parents passed with bladder and kidney diseases, I'm being worked up for mine in the coming weeks.
There is no good reason for you to have a C & P exam. Nada, zip, zero...not a single good reason for you to show up for an exam, period.
However, the businesses that make up the providers for those exams are owned by retired VA executives. Their businesses are paid by the exam so if they can schedule you for 2 unnecessary exams, so much the better.
Believe it or not, VA even has thought this through and they have a process in place that will keep most of us from needing an exam.
The ACE process makes a lot of sense and would reduce processing time and save a lot of taxpayer dollars so you can bet you'll never hear of it!
In the end there's not a thing you can do about it. If you fuss or choose to skip an exam, VA will default to denial and call you a no-show. Once that happens your records will forever reflect that you're a no-show and thus not profitable to the company.
Yes, you're correct, this is an outrage and shouldn't happen. However, it is what it is and the best I can tell you is that this time you embrace the suck and enjoy your visit with your examiner. Good luck sir.

Hearing Loss, Tinnitus & Mental Health Ratings

Dr. Brett Valette explains the connection or nexus

between profound hearing loss, tinnitus and mental health conditions.

Has your hearing loss and tinnitus caused anxiety and depression?  ​​

There's a reason for that.  

Talk with Dr. Valette today

and learn if you may have a well grounded claim for a mental health

condition secondary to your hearing loss.

veterans law attorney

Veterans Hearing Loss & Tinnitus Disability Claims

Other Than Honorable

It's been a very long time since I was in the army in Stuttgart Germany. I was in during the Vietnam era. I was only 18. I suffered a very traumatic tour in Germany and was discharged early. I didn't get in any trouble, but was subjected to many unchecked tragic moments. I was not given council nor advised what was happening to me. I did not want to be short changed in my service credit or classification and was promised, or at the very lease told, I would be receiving a regular honorable discharge. I just shut down and never spoke to anyone about my disagreements with my separation. I was never explained why or what was being said and how it was done. I know it's way too long for anyone to care but I will say that if my case had been explained to me, I wouldn't have agreed to anything less than a full discharge. I never had or caused any problems. What happened was done to me!!!!!!! My dad was an honorably discharged WW2 veteran and my brother was an Air Force vet. I can't even use facilities and don't have a military ID. I did serve well over there. Stuff just happened.

​​Jim's Reply:
I was there at the 98th General Hospital Neubrucke/Nahe, close enough to Stuttgart and probably at the same time you were. It sounds as if you had some issues adapting to the military life and you were offered and accepted a less than honorable discharge. 
If you'd like some help getting that discharge upgraded, these are the folks to talk with
Get in touch with them and they'll review what you've got and they'll take it from there.
Good luck!

Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Benefits 

Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Disability Claims

Welcome Home

​The VAWatchdog Dot Org

veterans law


I am filing for Sleep Apnea secondary to Hypothyroidism for which I am approved. My ENT wrote a nexus letter, but it was not good enough. It seems they want more details on how he got to the nexus. Do you know of any references I can use to justify the connection? Thanks.

​​Jim's Reply:
Whenever a provider writes a nexus letter to help us establish service connection and an appropriate rating that person must provide a rationale for their opinion that is based in current science. If your doctor says that your OSA is more likely than not secondary to your hypothyroidism, the doctor must then state how and why he or she arrived at that conclusion. It isn't your task to sort out the science and that you're trying to isn't a great sign.
I can think of a couple of options that may help. First, go to the Board of Veterans Appeals site and use their search engine to learn how cases similar to yours have done in an appeal. Enter your key words and choose 1 or 2 years to search and read some cases. You'll learn a lot about how VA views cases similar to your own.
The other option...and the one most likely to prevail...is to retain a disability medicine professional to provide the nexus you need to prevail. You can learn more about the 
Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) here.
Good luck!

Military hearing loss and tinnitus

a ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears — are the top two reasons for VA disability compensation claims. Most cases of military hearing loss are caused by exposure to loud noises that damage delicate hairs in the inner ear

Tinnitus and Mental Health

VA gave me tinnitus rating, no rating for hearing loss and no rating for depression/anxiety. Can I make my depression/anxiety secondary to tinnitus?

​Jim's Reply:
It sounds as if you've been rated for tinnitus (10% is max) and hearing loss. I'm not sure the % of your hearing loss rating but it's usually wrong or 'lowballed'. I'm also unsure whether you asked for depression as secondary to your hearing loss and you were denied or if you thought they should infer the mental health rating?
In any case, if you're not happy with the results of your hearing loss and mental health claims status, you should go ahead and speak with a veterans law attorney. Talking with an accredited lawyer about your options won't cost you anything and you won't pay anything out of pocket for the required appeals. Outcomes in cases like yours are always better with an accredited veterans law attorney in charge.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are the leading disability claims submitted by veterans...we're exposed to a lot of acoustic trauma. The connection between profound hearing loss and tinnitus to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are well established.
You'll want to speak with a clinical psychologist to better establish the link or nexus between your hearing loss and tinnitus and any mental health condition you may have as VA won't accept your word for it. In other words, you'll likely need an IMO. I refer to only one clinical psychologist and he is experienced with the often devastating effects of profound hearing loss. Talk with Brett and see what he can do to help you. Good luck.

Stateside Legal Help For Veterans

Travel Pay

Since the VA adopted the new mileage application via the internet, I haven't received any travel money. I checked with my travel clerk and he told me that there is a big back log here in Florida. Have others experienced this problem? Thank you Jim.

Jim's Reply:
I'm in Florida so I feel your pain.
We're supposed to be reimbursed a per mile amount for certain travel to and from medical care. In my time with VHA I've seen long lines and over an hour wait to receive a few dollars gas money. Then we went to a fill-out-the-form system. The check-in kiosks were introduced a few years back and those worked well other than you had to remember to sign out and sign in again to submit the travel voucher.
Not all that long ago I checked in to my small clinic and the kiosks were unplugged and parked in a corner. I was told to check in the old school way and only when I asked, I was given an old form to complete for travel pay. I was told the kiosks were gone forever.
I returned to that clinic 2 weeks later and the check in kiosks were back, plugged in and ready to go. There was no option for travel reimbursement, I was told to go to the Internet and figure it out. I haven't seen any deposits either.
I don't have any answer for you other than...welcome to your VA. They care!