The warzone in Afghanistan and Iraq was, and continues to be, much different than those experienced by previous generations. Instead of traditional battlefields, soldiers in these wars may find themselves fighting within urban environments. This makes for unique obstacles, including issues with noise.
The noise of the weapons used in these battles is deafening while the need to hear orders from superior officers is necessary for survival. How can soldiers balance these needs? You would think in an age of constant technological advances there would be an easy answer — and it appeared there was.
3M was given a military contract to provide earplugs that it stated would help to protect soldiers’ hearing in these situations. Based on the information given to the military by 3M, military medical professionals expected to see hearing loss claims go down after providing these earplugs. Imagine their shock and confusion when claims went up. What was the problem? Was this type of warfare, these types of weapons, so different that soldiers’ hearing was going to suffer even with these precautions?
Unfortunately, it appears there was something much more sinister going on. The government accused 3M of fudging data — the earplugs were not as effective as 3M claimed.
What options are available for injured veterans?
Veterans who suffered hearing loss while using these earplugs are not alone. As of April 2020, there were already over 11,000 individual veterans who came forward and were working to hold 3M accountable for their injuries with a civil lawsuit.
Is a civil lawsuit even an option? Isn’t the military protected from these kinds of lawsuits?
Although there are protections for both the military and contractors that can make these cases difficult, it appears that these specific cases will move forward. A judge in Florida recently shot down 3M’s key defense: the government contractor defense. As such, cases are moving forward.