Academy and Audiology Stakeholder Community Successful in Shaping Provisions of VA Hearing Instrument Specialist Legislation
S.785, a broad veterans mental health bill, has cleared the House and is expected to pass the Senate by the end of the week and then be signed by the President. This bill includes a section that will require the Veterans Administration (VA) to establish qualifications for hearing instrument specialists and, in turn, hire at least one such individual at every VA facility.
When the legislation was first introduced, the Academy expressed concerns about provisions of the bill that would have required the VA to take into consideration guidance from the hearing instrument specialist apprenticeship program at the Department of Labor (DOL), as well as the Occupational Information Network Database (O*NET), to formulate the requirements for hearing instrument specialists in the VA.
Joint advocacy efforts of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the American Doctors of Audiology (ADA) resulted in amendments to the legislation to remove references to the DOL apprenticeship program and the O*NET data. Instead, qualifications shall be based on state licensure requirements and competencies needed to perform tasks within the specific setting of the VA. Additional new language also clarifies that the VA shall retain the authority to set and maintain the acceptable job duties and responsibilities for hearing instrument specialists hired under these qualifications for the purposes of their employment with the VA. The amended legislation will reinforce the primary role of the audiologist in hearing health care.
The Academy will continue to be engaged throughout the implementation of this new requirement to ensure quality hearing health care for veterans.