June 13, 2019

Steps Required by the VA to Help Prove Veteran Tinnitus

If you are a veteran and think you may be suffering from tinnitus, there are a certain number of steps that must be taken to prove to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (or the VA) that your tinnitus originated due to your time serving in the military and for job-related reasons. Many plaintiffs in the 3M earplug lawsuit are contacting the VA and asking for assistance, support, and compensation.

Background: 3M earplug lawsuit

The Minnesota-based 3M Company was hired by the Defense Logistics Agency, or DLA, to manufacture combat earplugs designed for the United States military’s use in combat operations. However, these earplugs were defective and were ineffective in creating a seal to block the harsh noises of combat from damaging the eardrum and inner ear.

3M is being sued by over 600 plaintiffs currently, because not only did the company produce defective earplugs, but they also did not alert the users or the military in general that the earplugs being used in combat were defective. These earplugs were used between 2003 and 2015, so some veterans who used these earplugs more recently are still developing symptoms and adding their names to the list of plaintiffs.

The veterans who have filed claims against the 3M Company are saying that their defective earplugs allowed dangerous levels of noise exposure to their ears and has resulted in hearing loss, loss of balance, and tinnitus.

As veterans from all around the country file their suits, the Judiciary Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (or the JPML) was responsible for putting all these claims together into one major suit determining in which state and district this trial would be held. Their decision was to hold the trial in Pensacola, Florida, where the judge presiding over the case has had much experience dealing with lawsuits from people spanning a number of districts.

If you believe your tinnitus is due to the use of 3M combat earplugs during your military service between the years of 2003 and 2015, consider contacting an attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. who can help you file a claim. Another step to take, however, is proving your tinnitus to the VA.

Proving tinnitus to the VA

Claims of tinnitus are one of the most common VA claims. There are several steps to take when attempting to prove that your tinnitus is due to your time spent in the United States military.

It used to be much easier to prove a tinnitus claim to the VA. You only had to show the four pillars to have your claim recognized: veteran status, service-connection (in this case, exposure to loud noises or symptoms or tinnitus during service), impairment rating, and an effective date of when you started to feel the effects of tinnitus.

However, it is now harder to prove a nexus or service connection. In the past, veterans only had to show what was known as “the continuity of symptomatology,” or continuous symptoms of the tinnitus since their medical discharge. Since the case of Fountain v. McDonald in 2015, this continuity of symptomatology is no longer as valid in court as it used to be.

How to prove your tinnitus to the VA

If you are trying to prove your tinnitus to the VA, you must draft a Sworn Declaration including the following information:

  • All instances of extreme noise exposure that you can remember, to the approximate month and year if possible. Each instance does not need to be explained in more than 1-3 sentences.
  • Approximately when the tinnitus started.
  • Why you didn’t seek medical treatment while in service (if it began while you were serving). Explain the reality that despite protocol, it is tough for a service member to loop in the chain of command for ringing in their ears.
  • The chronicity, frequency, and severity of your tinnitus.

Although these steps should help you along your way to proving your tinnitus claim to the VA, please contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. at 1-866-MICH-LAW(1-866-642-4529) for a FREE case evaluation. We never charge a fee unless we make a recovery. Let our legal team serve you and help you fight for your rights!

Tim is a writer and editor who earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland and calls Washington, D.C., home after spending most of his adult life in the country’s capital. Although Tim spent most of his post-college years in the restaurant industry, he became interested in writing about legal matters after he recently moved to Colombia. Today, Tim writes professionally about medical malpractice, drug policies, and workplace injuries. Tim is focused on curating his freelancing career and plans to work remotely for as long he can.

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