If you’re a veteran who suffers from hearing loss or ringing in your ears and used earplugs during your service, you may be entitled to compensation. 

3M, manufacturer of the dual-ended Combat Arm Earplugs sold to the U.S. military, agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. government to settle allegations that the company knowingly sold defective earplugs. According to a July 26, 2018 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the payment “resolves allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency.” Prior to the settlement, the U.S. government alleged 3M knew its earplugs “could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the lawsuit against 3M was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The act allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government if the defendants are accused of submitting false claims for government funds. The whistleblower was to receive $1.9 million as part of the resolution.

While 3M paid millions of dollars to settle the accusations, veterans who were possibly affected by the defective earplugs are not receiving any of the money. 

But that doesn’t mean veterans who suffer from tinnitus – ringing in the ears – or hearing loss after using 3M’s earplugs during their service shouldn’t receive compensation for their pain. 

As U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon said in the release, “And in this case in particular, we are proud to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country.” 

While no settlements between 3M and veterans has been reported yet, some former military service members are already taking action against the company for its allegedly defective earplugs. Earlier this year, veterans Joseph Junk and David Henderson filed civil complaints against 3M, after claiming the company “did not adequately warn of the defects or adequately warn how to wear the earplugs,” reports CBS News. They aren’t the only veterans who believe their hearing has permanently been damaged by 3M’s allegedly defective earplugs. 

NPR reports retired Army Brigadier General William Gothard is looking to sue 3M after using their earplugs and developing tinnitus, or ringing of the ears. His attorney Ben Whitley told the news outlet that his office is representing a couple hundred people and suspects he’ll end up talking to hundreds of more veterans about hearing damage.  

“It sounds like a chorus of cicadas sitting on your shoulders, constantly,” Gothard told NPR of his tinnitus. 

Our attorneys at Spencer Law Firm are litigating 3M cases and how veterans all over the country are suffering from hearing loss or phantom sounds from damaging sounds.