DOL Rescinds Apprenticeship Program for HADs; Congress Acts on VA Legislation

DOL Rescinds Apprenticeship Program for HADs; Congress Acts on VA Legislation

November 18, 2016 Government Relations News

The Academy is pleased to inform its members that the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that they have rescinded the highly concerning apprenticeship program for hearing aid dispensers, citing the need to seek additional input from audiology stakeholders before creating such a program. This information comes through correspondence from the DOL with Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), who expressed concern to the DOL regarding the development of the apprenticeship program without input from the audiology community. This exciting announcement also comes on the heels of some important legislative activity. On November 17, the U.S. Senate passed, H.R. 3471, the Veterans Mobility Safety Act of 2015, by unanimous consent. The legislation includes a provision that would recognize hearing aid dispensers for appointment under the VA, but contains considerable patient protections and maintains the important role of the audiologist in the delivery of care. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this bill on September 12, and the President is expected to sign the bill into law.

The DOL decision and the passage of the compromise legislation represent the culmination of efforts by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), collectively the Audiology Organizations, to prevent hearing aid dispensers from expanding their scope of practice both on the state level and within the VA system. Today marks a great victory for audiologists as we continue to ensure our patients receive access to high quality audiological care.

With regard to our legislative efforts, the Audiology Organizations successfully stopped the advancement of the original House version ( H.R. 353) and original Senate version ( S. 564) of the misguided “Fit to Serve” legislation. Together, the Audiology Organizations worked with members of Congress to modify the bill's language to restrict the job duties of hearing aid dispensers to reflect their limited training and education. The language contained in the final, passed version of the Veterans Mobility Safety Act includes important patient protections that did not previously exist in the original House or Senate bills. In September, the Audiology Organizations released a joint statement addressing the specifics of this legislation and those patient protections.

The Academy, as well as the other audiology organizations, engaged in extensive outreach to the U.S. Department of Labor and the State Labor Agencies to request the rescission of the apprenticeship program for hearing aid dispensers. The Academy cited concerns with the program inappropriately expanding the scope of practice for hearing aid dispensers, putting patients at risk.

Both Congress and the DOL have taken important steps to recognize and preserve the important role of audiologists as clinical doctors, duly responsible for the development and oversight of patients' audiological plans of care, and to limit the role of hearing aid dispensers to that of the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids.

The Academy would like to specifically acknowledge the efforts of its members in reaching out to their elected officials and state labor agencies on behalf of the profession. As a result of your efforts, the voice of audiology was heard on the Hill and within the Administration!

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