Re: Issue With The Denver VA


Jim Rau
 

Dick I really understand your position with VA. I did some of the same thing over the last 3 years. It started when I requested a hearing loop at the check in counter at my local VA clinic. After some denials and attempts at intimidation and some support from my US Senator they finally agreed. VA seems to self-determine that they are ADA compliant. They are not and don’t like being told that. While my requests were denied, delayed, and derailed I found political pressure is the answer. VA has many firewalls between veterans and VA administration as you’re finding out. 

If we don’t advocate for ourselves no one will. I’m glad you are willing to speak out. And it sounds like you have the talent and experience to do a good job of it too. I see too many veterans settling for less than they should get from VA. 

On Aug 24, 2021, at 4:17 PM, dwisott <dwisott@...> wrote:

Steve,

Great advice and I will do what you are recommending.  Thanks so much for sharing your experience.  I am so impressed with this ability to connect with other vets on this website and just wish I found you all a long time ago.  Hope the draught in California is not affecting you.

Dick

On Aug 24, 2021, at 2:41 PM, Steve Sterry <steve.sterry@...> wrote:

Dick:

If there is one bit of advice that I would give to you it would be this:
  • If you have insurance that covers audiology exams, then go to a non-VA audiologist and get a written outside evaluation and recommendation.  Then take that recommendation back to your VA audiologist.  You can also take advantage of free trial programs, like I did and provide  your VA audiologist with an outside recommendation and your trial experience in writing Make sure that you always ask for a written response.
  • If the VA is still unwilling to follow the outside audiologist's recommendations, then file a formal complaint and grievance against the audiologist at the place where you are getting treatment.  Again, it should be filed in writing.
  • If that doesn't work, then contact the VA Washington Hotline (https://www.va.gov/ve/whvahotline.asp).
  • You can also contact your congressional representative and/or both of your state's senators.
Eventually the VA may give in just to get you off their back.  The key is to state your grievance in writing and request a written response.  Another key is that the VA may just grant your request to eliminate all their paperwork and get you off their back.  Also, I can personally tell you that the few times when I have used the VA Washington hotline, I always received a satisfactory response.

I hope that this helps.  Good luck.
 

Steven C. Sterry, M.A./M.B.A.

10149 Grayling AV. – Whittier, CA  90603-2608

Phone (562) 947-2258 

Email: steve.sterry@...

 


On Tue, Aug 24, 2021 at 12:48 PM dwisott <dwisott@...> wrote:
Jim, I must tell you that I have burned some bridges with the VA when I met with the 2nd from the top last week (and emailed the top guy in addition).  

I took the position that any vet that could greatly benefit from new technology should not be deprived of that technology…and right now, not just when his 4 years of wearing his old hearing aids have elapsed.  Of all the people in the universe, I said, it should be our veterans who sacrificed for our country who should be offered the opportunity to upgrade their hearing devices right now…not just in 4 years hence.  And I then went another step further and said that if and when I get better technology and am convinced by hearing professionals that other vets could benefit from that technology, I will insist that they be given the opportunity to have access to that technology... right now!  Not when their 4 years are up!  Right now!  And if that doesn’t happen I will engage legal council and attempt to influence the VA to loosen up. 

In addition, I told this audiologist manager, I will go to the media and make sure that the public is told how our vets, who endure service-connected hearing loss, are being treated if, in fact, vastly improved technology is not offered to each and every one of them the moment that technology is proven to be better by recognized authorities.  I also told the manager that I was a marketing professional during my civilian working career and will attempt to pressure the VA if they deny our vets anything short of the best technology available when it is proven to be significantly better.  

So, yes, I was aggressive.  And, yes, I know that better technology is often subjective.  And, yes, I know that some of the claims made by the hearing aid manufacturers is sometimes marketing BS…(I was in charge of marketing for my corporation and can readily recognize BS when I see it).   And I am almost 88 years old and don’t want to be forced to wait until I am 92 to finally get the ability to hear more clearly.  My hearing, in both ears, was damaged while I was on active duty (not in battle, just in basic training).  And when the public is made aware of how our veterans are required to wait before benefiting when new and vastly better hearing technology becomes available, the public will demand that the VA change its’ antiquated policies.

So now the folks at my local VA are reticent to speak to me and I will need to get my political representatives involved if I am to move beyond this point.  Fortunately I have the means to buy my own hearing aids and don’t need to be intimidated by the VA holding me back from getting what I need to hear better now, not next week, let alone in 4 years.

Sorry to have gone on like this.  I’m clearly impatient.  But I don’t like rules that harm those deserving better treatment.  And I fundamentally believe our vets should be given every advantage there is to better their lives.  

I want to hear better now and am frustrated with bureaucracy and rules when it comes to not being able to enjoy my life to the fullest.  And I also recognize that the VA does many wonderful things to help our veterans and I am now only focused on this single area where I believe they need a change of overly-rigid policy. 

Hope you understand.

Dick

On Aug 24, 2021, at 11:28 AM, Jim Rau <jimrau@...> wrote:

Dick, just be aware that the advertisement and hype always exceeds the performance of hearing aids as well as most other items. Every pair of hearing aids I’ve received are better than the ones they replaced, but NONE of them met my expectations or needs. Current hearing aid technology just can’t do that. 

For your issue of hearing students in a classroom be aware that hearing aid microphones are effective out to about 6 feet. I don’t think any hearing aids will allow you to hear students in the back of a classroom, but we always remain hopeful. The Roger mic could do that for you (there are at least 2 kinds of Roger mics not including the PN). The Roger Select will work with your Oitcons by using a Roger MyLink. VA should be able to provide those for you - they did for me.  Your hearing aids will need telicoils (t-coils) to do that. If you don’t have t-coils VA should provide you with t-coil wquiped hearing aids - the did for me. I also recommend you ask for t-coils in ANY hearing aids you get. 

Keep after VA. They dispense top-of-the-line hearing aids. They generally do a good job of fitting them. Then it’s over. Follow-up checks, aural rehabilitation, and patient education are non-existent in VA. That’s sad because they are important. 

Keep in touch and let us know how things turned out for you. 

Jim


On Aug 24, 2021, at 8:04 AM, dwisott <dwisott@...> wrote:

Steve, this is what I needed to hear, regarding Phonak.  My outside the VA audiologist is pushing to try the Phonak Audeo Paradise 90…the newest and greatest, at least he thinks so.  These are supposed to be a step up or two over the Marvel.  The 90 is the tip top version…and at this point I really don’t know the differences between the 90 and the couple of lower levels, except for price.  

Of course I believe the VA probably has the 90, but at this point they are not willing to give it to me for at least another year.  The VA audiologist told me last week that I have had my current Oticon Opn aids for only 3 years and that I needed to wait another 2 years before moving into something else.  After listening to this discussion over the past day or so, you all have said the rule is 4 years, not 5.  And of course I don’t remember when I got my Oticons, but suspect they’ll tell me if I ask.

I am currently thinking of going outside the VA to UCHealth (University of Colorado) to buy them at their “discounted” price of $4,062.56.  Then they add $315.50 to make them rechargeable and another $150.00 for ear molds.  Then they tack on $500 for “Professional Fee”…which is likely his profit. I need to ask about Roger to attach to my TV and I also need a device to attach to my computers.   He said I had a 45 day trial period during which I can bring them back to try something else.  If I do that I would probably want to try the newest Oticon More 1.  I do need to ask if I decide I don’t like either of those can I get a full refund.  And there was no mention of a $40 turkey, at least not yet.

So that’s where I am at currently.  I am not giving up on the VA quite yet.

Dick

On Aug 23, 2021, at 10:52 PM, Steve Sterry <steve.sterry@...> wrote:

It would be great if the VA had a trial program, but it doesn't.  Like many of those who have already commented, I have problems hearing in groups.  My hearing loss was caused by exposure to Naval gunfire during the Vietnam War.  After years of complaining, the VA finally issued me the Phonak Audeo Yes model with the ComPilot II.  It was the best model that I had ever used, but it still had its problems.

One day, in the mail, I received an offer from a local hearing aid vendor to try what was then the new Phonak Marvel series.  Along with the trial, I would get a free $40 coupon for a turkey and trimmings.  I couldn't resist.  However, I let the vendor know in advance that there could be a possibility that the VA might provide them to me for free.  I gave him the option of withdrawing the offer.  He did not and issued a pair of Marvels to me for the two week trial period.  And, we had a great Thanksgiving dinner.

I had been using the Audeo Yes model for slightly less than three years, so I made the assumption that I would have to wait for them to be replaced.  However, I went in to see my audiologist at the Long Beach VA with the on-loan marvels and was able to convince him why the Marvels were so much superior to what I had.  He ordered the Marvels right away along with a new Roger disc that ties my hearing aids to the TV.

The following year, I was invited by the same outside vendor to try the Phonak Paradise models under the same agreement, without the turkey, and after two weeks, the Marvels actually sounded better to me.  I tell you this because new is not always better.

One problem to advise you about:  Since I have been using the Marvels, I had to send them into DALC for repair three times.  In fact, right now, I am wearing my old Audeo Yes hearing aids because my left hearing aid went down for the second time.  So, technology might not mean better quality, overall.

Whatever happens, I wish all of you who are not satisfied with your hearing aids, Good Luck.  In my experiences, I have a lot of complaints about VA care, but Audiology is not one of them--- at least not yet.

InHis Service,

The Rev. Steven C. Sterry, M.A./M.B.A.

Assisting Priest at St. Stephen's Anglican Church

Director Ministry and Education, United States Conference of Chaplains

LTC (CA-Retired) California State Military Reserve (CSMR)
Affiliate Staff Member - Cru Military (Formerly Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry)

Sponsor Veterans in Prison CIM Chino, CA and CIW Corona, CA
Phone (562) 947-2258

Life is about turning passion into purpose.  

 


On Mon, Aug 23, 2021 at 7:40 PM Jim Rau <jimrau@...> wrote:
Thanks Karl. I’ve already done that-Twice. 


On Aug 23, 2021, at 9:28 PM, dwisott <dwisott@...> wrote:

Jim, some more good ideas…much appreciated.

In addition to trying to hear in a restaurant, I’ve tried putting my phone (connected to my hearing aids) on the table, but there is so much ambient noise that what I hear is mostly just more noise.  When I went to the VA last week to meet with the manager of audiology he wanted to give me a few microphones that he suggested I pass around to those I’m dining with, but the thought of making my friends have to speak into a mike makes me most uncomfortable.  I’ve also been teaching classes through OLLI (lifelong learning program) at Denver University and having people have to pass around a mike would be way too time consuming.  I may not have any other choice, but I first want to try to find hearing aids that are designed to work in noise before I resort to handing out microphones.

Dick

On Aug 23, 2021, at 7:53 PM, Jim Rau <jimrau@...> wrote:

Dick, I’m learning more about my new Phonaks every day. Today on a call with Phonak I learned that I could change some settings on my phone which helped the stability of the hearing aids. But they still do some strange things. I’m sure I’ll have  to go back to the audiologist at some point soon. 

Karl has some very good points. I had some good success after contacting my US Senator to intervene in my behalf. And don’t hesitate to request a different audiologist. Some are better than others. The one Big Thing I’ve learned about VA (especially audiology) is that you have to be your own advocate. Inform yourself. Tell them what you need and let them figure out how to deliver that. You can call your VA Advocate. Look for the number on the VBA web site (NOT the VA web site). Document everything. VA will change their answers from time to time as well as giving ambiguous answers. Ask them if you are a candidate for a CI. CIs have a much better success rate than they used to have. 

You might try the Phonaks from a private audiogost and you shouldn’t have to pay for them if you return them during the trial period. If you don’t/won’t use all the connectivity that Phonak offers it is useless to you. Get something you like and that you can work with comfortably. 

OH and I can tell you that your Oticon OPns will work with the Phonak Roger system. They don’t connect wirelessly so you have to use a neck loop. But the Roger microphone is very good. Just put the mic on a table in a restaurant table and connect to the mic with a neck loop and use you t-coios (your hearing aids must have t-coils)  Your audiologist can explain all that. 

Jim Rau
President HLAA WI Association

On Aug 23, 2021, at 7:36 PM, Karl Hallsten <karl@...> wrote:

Hi:
I am Karl Hallsten--100% service connected for hearing loss Vet--currently bi=lateral CI---It's six plus years since I had a Phonak Naida in my left ear.
I had preferred the Oticon sound--but I needed the help of the Phonak FM system which I was the first one issued in the VA back in 2000.--I was part of a research project at the Bay Pines VA which was testing the FM system as a means of delaying or avoiding a CI--at that time I was borderline for a CI--but was not really fully evaluated.  The FM system worked for me and I was even issued a new model when it became available.  In addition to being an HLAA member and on the Vets Across America, I am president of the Adult Loss of Hearing Assn--ALOHA here in Southern AZ.  We have virtual meetings every week and your welcome to join in--
I am so sorry to hear of your issues.
My recommendations:
1. Don't take the tack of newer technologies--focus on you can't hear and what situations you can't hear in.  Let the audi--be the expert on equipment--you on whether it works.
Persist that they provide you a pair that work.--As far as I know the policy to provide you with a functional back-up pair is still in effect.  
2.  Ask to have a different audi---this is a formal request. I did this for a primary care provider--and it worked.
3.  It sounds to me that HA are not enough for you--especially in noisy situations.  The Roger system might be an option. (I suspect that no one has told you that the best HA and CI have a highly effective range of 6 feet. After that the speech to noise ratio is in the pits--even sooner in noisy situations. How far can you be from the mic and have it pic up)
4.  Yes, get a rep and file complaint---focus on HA working for you--not brand---document where you can't hear and where you can. What settings and adjustments--impact?
5.  And the standard VA rule--if denied, reapply.  Repeat dosage as needed for results.
6.  Use your congressional rep if it gets bogged down.--(I think you're there now!) They like doing Vets.  
Again: stay focused on the goal--hearing--not the brand or equipment.  Let it be said--"He persisted."   Please keep us informed as it helps us help others.  
Thanks for your service--Karl   

-----Original Message-----
From: HLAAVeterans@... <HLAAVeterans@...> On Behalf Of Jim Rau via hlaagroups.hearingloss.org
Sent: Monday, August 23, 2021 1:51 PM
To: HLAAVeterans@...
Subject: Re: [HLAAVeterans] Issue With The Denver VA

Hi Dick, Welcome to the site. Glad you found it. 

I also have a service connected hearing loss from Viet Nam.  Like you I struggle to understand speech in noisy situations. I have received my audiology care from VA for many years. At first I was told I could get new hearing aids every 3 years and most recently every 4 years. 

My most recent hearing aid replacement began in February when I qualified for new hearing aids. I had been using Oticon OPn. The audiologist tested my hearing and prescribed new Oticon More (which would become available on VA contract in May. By the time the hearing aids came in late may that audiologist had moved to a different position in VA. The audiologist who set up my Otidon Mores said she thought I’d do better with the Phonak Paradise so she ordered them but did fit me with to. Oticon Mores which I wore for 3 months while waiting for the Phonaks. Two weeks ago she fit me with the Phonak Paradise which seem to work a bit better than the Oticons but I have issues. While they do sound a bit better and connect wirelessly to more things than the Oticons they are harder to use. By that I mean they don’t work as seamlessly as the Oticons. The Phone app that controls the Phonaks is terrible. It drops connections and changes programs randomly. I found out from Phonak that the Paradise hearing aide provided to VA do not have the latest firmware and VA won’t have that firmware until about November. So I went to a private audiology clinic and got them updated with the new firmware. They still remain unstable. Outgoing phone calls connect the Phonaks, but incoming calls go to the phone audio and I have to switch it over manually. 

I was anxious to get the Phonak Paradise but I’m considering going back to the Oticons because they work seamlessly. Today,for instance, my Phonaks changed programs about 6 or 8 times by themselves. I changed them back manually to the correct program each time. The mute button mutes the Phonaks only momentarily. I sometimes want to mute them and just listen to music without the hearing aid microphones on. The Phonaks have more automatic features which is great but they don’t work as they are supposed to. I’m communicating with Phonak and the private audiologists to remedy the instability issues. Bottom line is I’m still undecided which ones I’ll keep. I know I’ll have them for at least 4 years. 

For you, I think VA’s position is that they will not replace your hearing aids as long as they are working just to get the latest technology. Every time Ihave received new hearing aids my anticipation was much higher than the improvement. The way the audiologist sets them up is more important in my opinion. And if I were you I wouldn’t want the Phonak Paradise from VA until after they get the new firmware (November???)

Jim Rau
President HLAA WI Association

On Aug 23, 2021, at 3:11 PM, dwisott <dwisott@...> wrote:

I just today discovered this site and am posting here to get your input and suggestions.

The Denver VA has provided me with hearing aids for several decades and generally updated my hearing aids about every 3 years or so as new technology emerged.  My hearing in both ears was damaged while firing a bazooka in basic training in 1956 (no ear protection was provided back then).  It was only when I reached retirement age that I needed hearing aids and have gotten increasingly worse as I reached my late 80’s.

I currently cannot hear much in noisy situations, like in restaurants and also in the classes I take and also teach at Denver University.  And my wife is constantly complaining that I miss much with my daily interactions with her and our friends and family.  An audiologist at the University of Colorado Hospital that I consulted with, strongly recommends that I try the new hearing aids called "Phonak Audeo Paradise 90”, which are recommended for those with severe hearing loss (which is what I have at some levels).  The website “Senior Living. org” also considers the Phonak aids the best for my hearing loss.

The Denver VA has denied me even trying the Phonak aids claiming that since my current Oticon aids are just 3 years old I need to wait for at least 2 more years.  The head of VA audiology in Denver sent me a message which included these statements:  “The VA strives to provide the best products and best service possible.  We are not able to provide new hearing aids because new technology becomes available.”

I find that last statement to be totally outrageous and told them so.  If technology has improved significantly, which would markedly benefit our veterans lives, how can they deny making them available to veterans like you and me?

I am considering going out and buying a pair of hearing aids (cost around $5,000) since I likely don’t have that many years left as I approach my nineties.  But I am appalled that the VA is so rigid and uncaring.

So what do you think about this and what do you advise me to do?

Thanks,

Dick Wisott
Email:  dwisott@...




























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