Citation Nr: 18160438
Decision Date: 12/26/18	Archive Date: 12/26/18

DOCKET NO. 17-08 619
DATE:	December 26, 2018
Service Connection for Bilateral Hearing Loss is granted.
Service Connection for Tinnitus is granted.
In a January 2017 Statement of the Case, the RO denied service connection for bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus on the bases that there were no links to service found.
Resolving reasonable doubt in the Veteran’s favor, the criteria for service connection for bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus have been met. 38 U.S.C. §§1110, 1112, 1131,1137, 1154, 5107 (2012); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303, 3.304, 3.307, 3.309, (2017). 
The Veteran served in the United States Army from August 1963, until May of 1966.  This matter is before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal of a January 2017 statement of the case. 
Entitlement to service connection for a bilateral hearing loss disability is granted. The Veteran contends that he suffers from a bilateral hearing loss disability as a result of his service. The question for the Board is whether the Veteran suffers from a current disability that is at least as likely as not related to an in-service injury, event, or disease. 
It appears that the combat presumption, described in 38 U.S.C. §1154 (b) applies to the Veteran’s claims. Under 38 U.S.C. §1154(b), when a veteran has engaged in combat with the enemy during active service, VA must accept satisfactory lay or other evidence that is “consistent with the circumstances, conditions or hardships of such service.” This evidence serves as sufficient proof of service-connection of any disease or injury alleged to have been incurred in or aggravated by such [combat] service.” See id.; 38 C.F.R. §3.304(d). The combat presumption applies not only to combat injuries but also to the consequences of those injuries. Reeves v. Shinseki, 682 F. 3d 988,000 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (holding the Board is required to apply the section 1154(b) presumption to both claimed acoustic trauma incurred during service and the separate question of whether a veteran suffered permanent hearing loss while on active duty).
The evidence of record indicates that Veteran engaged in combat service. In a VA Examination dated December 2012, Veteran noted that he was a combat engineer in the army, clearing mine fields, and doing other tasks such as building bridges, and purifying water. In a Letter of Appreciation dated March 1966, Veteran’s Platoon leader noted an instance where the Veteran was “in the midst of a mortar attack and a heavy volum[e] of small arms fire.” The Veteran also submitted evidence that he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism on March 4, 1966 for the same incident as described in the Letter of Appreciation. 

The Board acknowledges that an addendum to a VA examination dated March 26, 2013 noted that the Veteran’s hearing loss and tinnitus are not at least as likely as not caused by or a result of an in event in military service because the Veteran’s hearing thresholds were noted as normal on his separation documents. 
The Board assigns less probative value to that opinion, because regulations do not preclude service connection for a current hearing disability where hearing was within normal limits on audiometric testing at separation from service. 38 C.F.R. §3.385 (2017); Hensley v. Brown, 5 Vet. App. 155 (1993).
The Board believes the Veteran’s service record, prior military occupation and evidence of exposure to loud noises during service is is at least equal to the VA examination opinion in terms of probative value. Where the evidence for and against a claim is equal the Board must give the Veteran the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, reasonable doubt is resolved in favor of the Veteran and entitlement to service connection for bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus is granted. Gilbert Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 49 (1990); 38 U.S.C. § 5107 (2012); 38 C.F.R. §3.102 (2017).
J. White
Acting Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	Department of Veterans Affairs

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