Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans who were deployed between 2003 and 2015 were routinely issued the now-discontinued Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ ear plugs (CAEv2). In fact, during those twelve years, millions of dollars’ worth of Combat Arms™ ear plugs were distributed to thousands of service members.
It now appears that by wearing these Combat Arms™ ear plugs, our veterans were placed at significant risk for total hearing loss, partial hearing loss, tinnitus, ringing in the ears or buzzing in the ears. The Combat Arms™ ear plugs have a dual-ended design which allows them to be used as “traditional” ear plugs or can be flipped over to provide normal hearing while still protecting eardrums from the noise associated with explosions and gunfire. These Combat Arms™ ear plugs, however, were too short for proper insertion, meaning they would loosen, becoming virtually useless.
Did 3M and Aearo Technologies Know There Were Ear Plug Design Problems? The claim is that 3M—as well as Aearo Technologies, 3M’s predecessor—were aware of the ear plug design problems as early as 2000, when the ear plugs failed standard safety tests. 3M acquired Aearo Technologies, the original manufacturer of the ear plugs, in 2008. While 3M has admitted no wrongdoing, the company has agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations of faulty Combat Arms™ ear plugs. This settlement was announced by the Department of Justice in July 2018. Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler notes that the Department of Justice is “committed to protecting the men and women serving in the U.S. military from defective products and fraudulent conduct.” Readler reacted strongly to the 3M settlement, promising appropriate consequences for any government contractor attempting to make a profit at the expense of our service members. 3M is a Minnesota-based company.
Violations of the False Claims Act Under Whistleblower Provisions - Allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by knowingly selling defective ear plugs to the military led the director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit to assert that his agents would “respond robustly” when the safety of our military is at stake. Frank Robey added that the readiness of our military depends heavily on properly made safety equipment. The lawsuit which was eventually resolved through the $9.1 million settlement was brought under the whistleblower provisions (qui tam) of the False Claims Act which allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government when it is believed false claims for government funds are at hand. The settlement allowed the whistleblower in the case to receive $1,911,000 under the captioned case United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company, Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS.
Nearly 3 Million Veterans Currently Receiving Disability Benefits for Hearing Loss or Tinnitus - One research scientist with the VA Portland Healthcare System states there were more than 1.6 million veterans in 2017 seeking medical care for chronic tinnitus. In fact, according to AARP, the top service-related medical issue for military veterans is not traumatic brain injury, missing limbs, or even PTSD—it is hearing injuries. There are currently more than 2.7 million veterans who receive disability benefits for tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears), total hearing loss or partial hearing loss. The associate director of the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, Gabrielle Saunders, believes the actual numbers are much higher. The primary cause of military hearing loss and tinnitus is noise exposure—a problem the manufacturers of the Combat Arms™ ear plugs claimed a solution for.
Veterans with tinnitus can hear ringing, hissing or buzzing noises which prevent them from sleeping—or concentrating when they are awake. Hearing loss can make conversation difficult, leading to problems with relationships, social isolation, depression and even cognitive decline. While hearing protection is standard issue in the military—and mandatory for all active-duty service members—when these ear plugs do not do the job they claim to do, the fallout can be devastating. There is currently no cure for tinnitus, however the VA does offer cognitive behavior therapy classes, sound therapy and counseling to help veterans manage symptoms, as chronic tinnitus can be a debilitating condition.
VA Disability for Hearing Loss - If your hearing loss or chronic tinnitus is related to your service in the military, you may also be eligible for service-connected disability compensation. There must be a current diagnosis of your hearing loss, a specific event during your military service which either caused or contributed to the hearing loss, and a physician’s opinion that the specific military event is linked to your hearing loss or chronic tinnitus. This VA disability for hearing loss would be in addition to your potential Combat Arms™ ear plugs settlement. Your qualifying medical diagnosis for VA disability tinnitus or VA disability for hearing loss begins with a qualifying medical diagnosis, received by undergoing a hearing exam by a licensed audiologist.
There are two separate tests involved to establish partial hearing loss, total hearing loss, tinnitus, ringing in the ears or buzzing in the ears: the Maryland CNC test which measures hearing loss through a test which scores how well you recognize speech and a Puretone Audiometric test which determines your level of general hearing loss by measuring the faintest tones you can distinguish. You will then show evidence of the event which caused your tinnitus hearing loss and receive a hearing loss VA rating. This tinnitus VA rating rates your disability between 0 and 100 percent in increments of 10 to determine your monthly disability compensation.
Defective Military Ear Plugs Injury Lawyer - Those who served in the military between 2003 and 2015, were issued ear plugs during that time, and now suffer from permanent hearing loss or tinnitus could be entitled to compensation from 3M. Speaking to a Combat Arms™ ear plugs injury lawyer can be extremely beneficial during this difficult time as you may be eligible for a defective military ear plugs injury lawsuit. Having an experienced ear plugs injury attorney by your side can greatly affect the outcome of your Combat Arms™ ear plugs injury lawsuit. If you have buzzing in the ears, total hearing loss, partial hearing loss or ringing in the ears, contact a knowledgeable Sullo & Sullo defective military ear plugs injury lawyer today.