Hi Jim, like you I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. I served in the USAF from 1967-71, honorably discharged. I am now a sick old man (aren't we all) and I am retired. Among more than my fair share of maladies, I have lost my hearing in one ear and am losing in the other. The VA will do nothing for me, in fact they wouldn't even vaccinate me for COVID even though they had vaccine, when nobody else did. I have never asked the VA for any health care, or much of anything else. Now, I need hearing aids and they are insanely expensive. Any ideas? I could also use some help paying for all the medications I take, Part D of Medicare is pretty pathetic. But my most immediate need is hearing aids.
Many of us of our era were told we had health care benefits for life. That was true if we registered in the VA system early on and stayed active by seeing a VA doctor every now and then. A lot of folks didn't bother because they had civilian insurance and in those days avoiding VA care was a good way to stay healthy.
Then came the most recent era of wars and in 2006-2007 the rules changed. No longer were we promised forever care, there were rules. If you were RVN era and hadn't registered and didn't have a VA rated disability, or you weren't retired etc., you were out of luck. That sounds like you, doesn't it?
The next generations of warriors have each faced changes to eligibility for VA health care and to be honest it's a challenge to keep up with who is eligible for what.
At this point you have a good option. Apply for a hearing related disability rating. Hearing loss and tinnitus is the #1 rated disability in our world. We have all been exposed to acoustic trauma that has harmed our hearing over time. You'll be examined for the degree of hearing loss and you'll be given the opportunity to tell VA why you believe your hearing loss is connected to your military experience.
Once you have a rated disabling condition, you'll be able to access the full offering of VA health care. Depending on your rating there may be some minor copays but nothing burdensome.
It's a pain to have to do this but this is the way it works. Good luck!