Wednesday, 23 September 2020

ADA Statement on Passage of S. 785 and Inclusion of Section 703

Posted in ADA News

ADA Statement on Passage of S. 785 and Inclusion of Section 703: Prescription of Technical Qualifications for Licensed Hearing Aid Specialists and Requirement for Appointment of Such Specialists

September 23, 2020 — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 785 (The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act). While this bi-partisan legislation is primarily designed to reduce veteran suicide by improving access to and the delivery of mental health services for veterans in crisis, it also contained a provision (Section 703) that stipulates the process for determining technical qualifications for licensed hearing aid specialists (HAS) within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and requirements for their appointment at VA medical centers.

Over the course of the past eight months, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), along with other allied organizations and stakeholders, provided members of Congress and their policy experts with important information and evidence to assist them in evaluating the process for qualifying hearing aid specialists for employment at the VA.

Our collective efforts resulted in significant improvements to the bill language prior to its passage, including the elimination of a determinant that would inappropriately tie HAS qualifications for employment at the VA to completion of the apprenticeship program established and propagated by the International Hearing Society (IHS) for profit. Also eliminated was language that would authorize the use of occupational descriptors provided through subjective, self-reported worker survey data, known as O-NET data, as a determinant for HAS qualification.

S. 785 will appropriately use state licensure to determine the qualifications for hearing aid specialists, along with any competencies that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may deem necessary to comply with existing laws related to the provision of care for individuals within the VHA. The legislation now aligns with existing laws, such as the Veterans Mobility Safety Act of 2016, that require hearing aid specialists at VHA facilities to only perform hearing services “consistent with the hearing aid specialist’s state license related to the practice of fitting and dispensing hearing aids, and that require that services provided to veterans by hearing aid specialists be provided as part of a non-medical treatment plan developed by an audiologist.”

President Trump is expected to sign S. 785 into law this month. While ADA has ongoing concerns about the resource allocations required to meet the legislation’s arbitrary mandate that a hearing aid specialist must be hired at every VA medical center by September 30, 2022, ADA is optimistic that the additional reporting requirements for which we advocated and are now mandated through the legislation will provide essential data that can form an evidence base for future workforce decisions within the VA system.

In the meantime, ADA and its leaders look forward to working with the VA and its representatives to implement the legislation in a manner that fosters timely access to quality audiologic services for veterans. ADA would like to thank the audiologists, veterans, and professional organizations across the country who contacted members of Congress to provide information about this important issue.

Please take the following link to the full text of  S. 785 (Sec. 703 begins on page 137):https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20200921/BILLS-116s785-SUS.pdf.

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