Veterans in need of hearing aids are not getting them in a timely manner, according to a 2012 Veterans Affairs audit.
The audit found that hearing loss was the second most prevalent service-connected disability for veterans after Tinnitus. Over the course of the study, veterans ordered 665,000 hearing aids and components and 394,000 hearing aids were repaired.
According to the audit, the VA was not timely in issuing new hearing aids to veterans and in meeting its 5-day timeliness goal. Thirty percent of hearing aids were also delivered more than 30 days late to veterans.
Larry Patterson, a Lieutenant in the Army in Vietnam back in 1967, served as an artillery forward observer, responsible for directing artillery and mortar fire onto a target.
“I was near the guns quite a bit and also near explosions on the other end quite a bit,” he told NBC 7.
Patterson was awarded two Bronze Stars for his actions when his Battalion came under hostile fire.
The award reads, in part: "First Lieutenant Larry Patterson was instrumental in suppressing the enemy mortar fire and thwarting mass ground attacks going on to say putting him directly in prime position as a target."
The only VA benefit that Patterson said he uses is having his hearing aid serviced.
“You kinda dread the time when you're going to have to go in.”
Patterson told NBC 7 the San Diego VA Medical Center clinic stopped taking appointments for hearing aid repair and he just had to show up and wait.
“You don't know to go in a half hour before they open and try to be one of the first or wait til a dead time, whenever that is," he said.
Patterson said the waiting room is always full and it would usually take over an hour. He said he feels is frustrated that after spending time serving his country, the VA can't take the time to make an appointment for him.
“They’ve taken a step backwards at a time when you think they would take a step forward.”
A VA spokesperson said that veterans should be able to walk-in or make an appointment as part of the VA’s new open access program. However, NBC 7 contacted the audiology clinic and were told that the way to see someone was to just walk-in.
The San Diego Medical Center is looking into what they say maybe a communication issue.
If you would like to share your experiences with programs for veterans, email Bridget Naso.