Citation Nr: 18132256
Decision Date: 09/06/18	Archive Date: 09/06/18

DOCKET NO. 14-36 549
DATE:	September 6, 2018
Entitlement to service connection for tinnitus is granted.
The evidence is at least in equipoise as to whether the Veteran’s tinnitus is etiologically related to service.
The criteria for service connection for tinnitus are met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 5107 (b); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303.
The Veteran served honorably on active duty from January 1973 to March 1976.
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal from an April 2014 decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO) in Houston, Texas, which denied service connection for tinnitus.
In July 2018, the Veteran testified at a travel board hearing before the undersigned Veterans Law Judge.  A transcript of the hearing has been associated with the claims file.
Service connection may be granted for a disability resulting from disease or injury incurred in or aggravated by service.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303 (a). Service connection may also be granted for any disability diagnosed after discharge, when all the evidence, including that pertinent to service, establishes that the disability was incurred in service.  38 C.F.R. § 3.303 (d).
Generally, in order to establish service connection, there must be (1) medical evidence of a current disability; (2) medical, or in certain circumstances, lay evidence of in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) medical, or in certain circumstances, lay evidence of a nexus between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the current disability.  See Shedden v. Principi, 381 F.3d 1163, 1167 (Fed. Cir. 2004); Hickson v. West, 12 Vet. App. 247, 253 (1999); Davidson v. Shinseki, 581 F.3d 1313, 1316 (Fed. Cir. 2009).
In this case, the Veteran asserts that he has tinnitus that is etiologically related to in-service noise exposure.  The evidence shows that the Veteran has a current diagnosis of tinnitus.  Therefore, the Veteran meets the first requirement of service connection, a current disability.
The evidence of record also shows that the Veteran meets the second and third requirements of service connection-an in-service incurrence and a nexus between the in-service incurrence and the current disability.  The Veteran is competent to provide lay evidence of his in-service noise exposure.  During his Board hearing, the Veteran testified that he was routinely exposed to hazardous noise while working with heavy equipment and driving tankers and diesel trucks.  The Veteran also reported exposure to small arms fire.  He stated that he did not wear hearing protection during this time.  During his Board hearing, the Veteran reported that he noticed ringing in his ears as a result of this noise exposure, and that the ringing has continued until present day.  In his April 2014 notice of disagreement, the Veteran reported that he has had ringing in his ears since Advanced Training.  
Despite the negative opinions proffered by the June 2013 and April 2014 VA examiners regarding the etiology of the Veteran’s tinnitus, the Veteran is competent to report the date of onset of his tinnitus as this disability is capable of lay observation.  Moreover, the Board finds his statements regarding onset to be credible. 
Given the competent and credible evidence of significant noise exposure in service and the Veteran’s testimony and other evidence concerning chronicity of symptomatology, the Board finds that the evidence is at least in relative equipoise as to whether the Veteran’s tinnitus is connected to in-service noise exposure.  See 38 C.F.R. § 3.309 (a); Walker v. Shinseki, 708 F.3d 1331, 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2013). Accordingly, service connection for tinnitus is warranted.
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	G. T. Raftery, Associate Counsel 

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