The Veterans Affairs Department has taken weeks to supply hearing aid devices and repairs, leaving many veterans hearing-impaired, according to recent articles.
Hearing Aid Distribution in the Military
According to the Washington Times, the Veterans Affairs Department has taken weeks to supply hearing aids to its war veterans, the department’s Inspector General noting that it takes roughly 17 to 24 days for hearing aid delivery. In the most extreme cases, nearly one-third of veterans have to wait a month or more to receive a new device, and of the several thousand war veterans in waiting, about 1 in 10 need hearing aid repairs.
The reason behind this massive deficit in hearing aid distribution has little to do with a lack of funding or material resources. Rather, officials from the Veterans Affairs Department report that there is a lack of staff members to properly record the arrival of new hearing aid shipments as well as the requests for new hearing aids.
The Denver Acquisition and Logistics Center (DALC) is the main processing center for these hearing aids, and the center has recently explained that 5 of its 21 staff positions were often vacant in the year 2012. Additionally, the DALC notes that the repair division has not had a full set of staff since February 2011. Investigators that inspected the Denver Acquisition and Logistics Center observed that there were 19,500 hearing aids that were unopened, broken or in need of repair.
Hearing Aids and the Hearing Loss Epidemic
In the year 2011 alone, 350,000 hearing aids were repaired and redistributed to war veterans through the Veterans Affairs Department. By 2012, the number had increased to 394,000. The demand for these hearing aids is extensive, as frequent injuries including tinnitus and hearing loss continue to plague active service members and veterans.
In 2012, about 414,000 veterans involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced some kind of hearing difficulty. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that war veterans are nearly one-third more likely to have instances of hearing loss than non-veterans, and the chance of a soldier getting ear damage increases from 13 to 18 percent annually. Veterans that served after September 2001 are four times more likely than non-veterans to have significant hearing loss. Possible sources of hearing damage include the noise generated from bombs and air strikes.
During 2012 the Veterans Affairs Department ordered approximately $221 million worth of new hearing aid components for veterans, and they also repaired roughly $16.5 million worth of hearing aid parts. The Veterans Health Administration is seeking to improve its efficiency by 2015 and has expanded its curriculum to include audiology as an academic discipline in 2016.
The Denver Distribution Center is sequestering more available staff and improving the maintenance of product information, including the tracking and monitoring data for each hearing aid. With these recent findings that explain the prolonged lack of hearing aid distribution, as well as increased efforts by the Veterans Health Administration and Denver Distribution Center, hearing-impaired veterans will be able to receive more reliable and extensive services for hearing aid distribution and repair.