A defense contractor has agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle claims that it furnished U.S. service members with earplugs that it knew were defective, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday. The settlement suggests that pure greed may be partly to blame for the military's "silent epidemic" of hearing loss.
The Minnesota-based 3M Company and its predecessor company Aearo Technologies sold dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the Department of Defense, despite allegedly knowing that the plugs were "too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly," according to the DoJ statement. The defects effectively rendered the earplugs useless.
According to Stars and Stripes, the Combat Arms Earplugs were fielded to thousands of service members who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2015, the same year a VA study concluded that more than 1 million veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, while 1.6 million were being compensated for tinnitus.
"Today's settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed," Frank Robey, the head of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit at the Army's Criminal Investigative Command, said in a statement. "Properly made safety equipment, for use by our Soldiers, is vital to our military's readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military."
As of 2017, the Army was working to develop and field the upgraded Tactical Communications and Protective System (TCAPS) — wearable earplugs that would allow soldiers to communicate over radio while also shielding their ears against the din of weapons fire and military vehicles.
In the meantime, merely training with standard-issue weaponry can result in traumatic brain injury, which can sometimes lead to hearing loss. Unfortunately, there's no protection for that.
In a scathing letter, a top Navy legal official on Sunday expressed "grave ethical concerns" over revelations that government prosecutors used tracking software in emails to defense lawyers in ongoing cases involving two Navy SEALs in San Diego.
The letter, written by David G. Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Navy's Defense Service Offices, requested a response by Tuesday from the Chief of the Navy's regional law offices detailing exactly what type of software was used and what it could do, who authorized it, and what controls were put in place to limit its spread on government networks.
"As our clients learn about these extraordinary events in the media, we are left unarmed with any facts to answer their understandable concerns about our ability to secure the information they must trust us to maintain. This situation has become untenable," Wilson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Task & Purpose on Monday.
Rebekah "Moani" Daniel and her husband Walter Daniel. (Walter Daniel/Luvera Law Firm)
The Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition to hear a wrongful death case involving the controversial Feres Doctrine — a major blow to advocates seeking to undo the 69-year-old legal rule that bars U.S. service members and their families from suing the government for injury or death deemed to have been brought on by military service.
FORT IRWIN, California -- Anyone who's been here has seen it: the field of brightly painted boulders surrounding a small mountain of rocks that symbolizes unit pride at the Army's National Training Center.
For nearly four decades, combat units have painted their insignias on boulders near the road into this post. It's known as Painted Rocks.