NIHL is of particular concern to veterans. Because NIHL is not immediately apparent (having a gradual onset), many veterans leaving the service are unaware of the full extent of hearing damage. Although governments are now realizing the link between military service and NIHL, it took a long time and many lawsuits before any compensation was given to the affected veterans. In 1999 the USA alone distributed $291.6 million in compensation for NIHL to some 56,792 veterans. The annual cost of compensation to veterans in France is estimated to be $60 million. In Belgium two thirds of all payments made to veterans with disabilities correspond to NIHL. Many veterans damage their hearing during service. They can, however, prevent more damage from occurring and they can save their remaining hearing after their military duties are completed.