Veterans in Michigan, and across the country, need to be aware of the recent developments regarding claims for hearing loss. In 2002, the government passed the Hearing Loss Compensation Act of 2002 that opened up more benefits for veterans, and in July 2018, the 3M Company lost the 3M Earplug Lawsuit and agreed to pay 9.8 million dollars in benefits to veterans who served from 2003 to 2015.
If you are a veteran with a hearing loss of any kind, it is necessary to contact your VA representative or a personal injury attorney to determine whether you are eligible for first-time or extended benefits. Both groups of professionals will assist you in navigating the application and the sometimes-complicated requirements that must be met when seeking benefits.
When Congress passed the Hearing Loss Compensation Act of 2002, it changed the benefits to veterans to include all types of hearing loss claims and not just those claims based on a complete loss of hearing. As a result, a veteran who suffers loss of hearing in one ear or both, has ringing in the ears; tinnitus, or develops a hearing loss over time, is eligible for benefits. The veteran should not assume that there are no benefits even though they are older and have had the hearing loss develop later in life.
To be clear, the VA will consider all levels of hearing loss. However, the evaluators will make a distinction between hearing loss and tinnitus. If there is ringing in both ears, the VA will still treat it as only one ear, but if there is hearing loss as well as tinnitus, then the veteran can make a claim for the two types of hearing loss. These distinctions are easily determined through the required tests and resulting reports.
VA Testing Requirements and Proof of Service
Once an application is made for benefits, the applicant must complete two separate hearing tests, and both tests need to be conducted by a licensed audiologist. The first test is the Maryland CNC test for speech recognition ability, and the second is the puretone audiometric test, which measures the loss of hearing in decibels and frequency. The VA evaluator then places these two test results on a standard graph to determine the amount of hearing loss. It is very difficult to falsify the results of the hearing tests as the testers have embedded protections against this.
The second part of the proof involves documenting the event that occurred when the hearing loss was noticed. This is important research and may require additional help from a personal injury attorney. The VA may not have sufficient data in its files to support all claims, so the applicant needs to have the experience available to certify the supporting information for the claim.
3M Earplug Lawsuit
In July of 2018, the 3M Company had to agree to pay a settlement of 9.8 million dollars to servicemen and women who were on active duty from 2003 to 2015. This False Claims Act Lawsuit was brought against 3M because the 3M company manufactured defective earplugs for the military, and with knowledge of the defect, still sold them for use in the field. As a result, many in areas of the military such as artillery, infantry, airplane repair, and armor were subject to noise levels that were did not meet US military standards.
The expectations for making a claim under the 3m Earplug Lawsuit are the same as with any claim for hearing loss. The applicant needs the two hearing tests and proof that the hearing loss occurred during an event while serving.
The VA will work with all veterans to ensure they receive the benefits they deserve. In addition, the veteran has the option of working with a personal injury attorney for assistance in receiving this benefit.