MoD to Compensate Veterans for Hearing Loss

According to the BBC, thousands of former military personnel will receive compensation for hearing loss sustained during their service.

Service members are frequently exposed to loud noises like gunfire and explosions. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had previously denied many claims from veterans suffering from hearing loss, attributing the damage to other noise sources, lack of hearing protection, or late claims. The MoD now recognizes that noise exposure during military service has contributed to hearing loss, making those discharged after 1987 eligible for compensation.

Between 2012 and 2020, the MoD paid £72 million in compensation for military-related hearing loss, settling over 9,000 cases. This new agreement is expected to result in many more veterans receiving payments, with up to 10,000 currently making claims. Simon Ellis from Hugh James Solicitors, who represents nearly 5,000 military personnel, described the development as “ground-breaking” and anticipates more claimants to come forward.

“Veterans have had their careers cut short, missed out on job opportunities, and their personal lives have been deeply affected,” Ellis said. “Those who serve our country should not face unnecessary risks from their employer.”

Last year, a case involving James Barry, who developed hearing loss and tinnitus, set a precedent for the new scheme. Barry, in his 30s, was awarded £700,000. The MoD acknowledged its “duty of care” to veterans and dropped the argument that claims should have been made sooner.

Barney Barnett, a 44-year-old former commando, also suffers from tinnitus and struggles to hear in noisy environments. Barnett served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was frequently involved in combat. He hopes the new agreement will expedite his compensation claim, which started seven years ago. Barnett believes compensation would help him afford better hearing aids and improve his quality of life.

“People don’t see what we’ve been through,” Barnett said. “The government speeding up this process will mean a lot to us.”

Although the military introduced hearing protection in the 1970s, acoustics engineer Nicholas Hill noted that it was often challenging for soldiers to consistently wear it. He explained, “Firing any firearm without ear protection, even once, can damage hearing.”

Next year, a few cases will go to trial to determine the level of compensation veterans should receive. According to Hugh James solicitors, once this is decided, claimants can resolve their cases without going to court if they can prove their hearing loss resulted from military service. They must have served after 1987 when a law change removed the government’s legal immunity in such cases.

The MoD agreement, reached at the High Court on Monday, was negotiated by Hugh James solicitors. This agreement allows the government to continue contesting cases from other law firms, though it is unlikely to do so. Lawyers indicated that the agreement would not change with the incoming Labour government.

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