Hearing loss legislation: Get the most out of election day

Contributed by | Thursday, October 30th, 2014

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Midterm elections are Nov. 4, and political debates around the country are running hot and fierce. Those with hearing loss, or those with loved ones who have hearing loss, are often overlooked by the hearing majority.  As a person with hearing loss, it’s important to stay informed on the political climate and cast your vote when you have the chance. 

A number of congressmen do keep the deaf and hard-of-hearing in mind while in Washington. Below are a few pieces of current pending legislation pertaining to hearing loss constituents. While the majority of them may not pass on their own, they have the possibility of being added to the end of a more comprehensive bill.

(Information compiled from GovTrack.)

hearing health legislation
Whether it's hearing loss legislation or the 
candidate who conceived it, make sure you're

informed on election day!

Legislation from officials up for re-election:

H.R. 5304: Audiology Patient Choice Act of 2014

Sponsor: Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)

Introduced: 7/31/14

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Amends title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to revise the coverage of audiology services to treat as physicians qualified audiologists authorized by the state and acting within the scope of their license.

Enables Medicare beneficiaries to choose a qualified audiologist without regard to any requirement to be under the care of (or referred by) a physician or other health care practitioner, or that services be provided under the supervision of a physician or other health care practitioner.

S. 2664: Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2014

Sponsor: Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

Introduced: 7/24/14

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to modernize the U.S. public alert system. 

H.R. 640: Supporting the goals and ideals of “Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week”

Sponsor: Mark Takano (D-Calif.)

Introduced: 6/23/14

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Expresses support for the goals and ideals of Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week, to recognize and honor people who are deaf-blind and organizations that continue to promote the awareness and needs of the deaf-blind community.

H.R. 1443: Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act of 2013

Sponsor: Michael Michaud (D-Maine)

Introduced: 4/19/13

Current status: Reported by committee

Summary: Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to:

1) Recognize tinnitus as a condition for research and treatment by the VA Auditory Centers of Excellence;

2) Ensure the allocation of appropriate resources for such research and treatment; and

3) Ensure VA cooperation with the Hearing Center of Excellence established by the Department of Defense (DOD) to further research tinnitus.

Legislation from officials not up for election:

S. 2046: Access to Hearing Healthcare Act of 2014

Sponsor: Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Introduced: 2/26/14

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Similar to the Audiology Patient Choice Act of 2014 (above).

H.R. 4035: To amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act 

Sponsor: Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)

Introduced: 2/11/14

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Companion bill for Access to Hearing Healthcare Act of 2014. Amends Title XVII of the Social Security Act to provide Medicare beneficiaries coordinated care and greater choice with regard to assessing hearing health services and benefits. 

Honorable mention: Sen. Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been a staunch advocate of improving the lives of those with hearing loss. As chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sanders has multiple pieces of legislation currently pending regarding hearing loss.

S. 2413: Restoring Veterans Trust Act of 2014

Introduced: 6/2/14

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Revises veterans' benefit programs to address veterans' access to medical care, including measures that address the VA’s scheduling and performance management systems, VA health facility staffing shortages and veterans' access to covered care at non-VA facilities.

S. 1982: Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014

Introduced: 2/3/14

Current status: Reported by committee

Summary: Amends federal veterans provisions to revise or add provisions concerning medical services and other benefits provided to veterans and/or their dependents through the VA.

S. 1582: Improved Compensation for Hearing Loss Act of 2013

Introduced: 10/28/13

Current status: Referred to committee

Summary: Directs the VA secretary to report to the congressional veterans committees on actions taken to implement the findings and recommendations included in the 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies entitled, "Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus."

Requires the secretary's report to include an evaluation of the extent to which veterans who had a military occupational specialty that is not included on the Duty Military Occupational Specialty Noise Exposure Listing are precluded from receiving VA benefits related to hearing loss.

Directs the secretary to report to Congress on joint VA-DOD programs concerning the prevention, early detection and treatment of hearing loss of members of the Armed Forces and veterans.

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