As attorneys across the country evaluate claims that veterans and active duty military personnel experienced major hearing damage due to using defective earplugs in combat situations, we have received questions about the implications the 3M lawsuits may have on their clients’ military disability benefits. Firms have also asked whether a potential settlement would trigger a healthcare insurance reimbursement obligation to the VA or TRICARE.
We understand that this is a serious topic that could influence whether or not an injured client would choose to proceed in the litigation. We provide the below information for educational purposes only, with the understanding that individual situations will vary. We welcome you to reach out if you have further questions or if we may be of assistance.
- Is it likely that a personal injury settlement related to physical injury sustained from use of a defective product in combat or other military activities would negatively impact a veteran’s military disability benefits?
The answer depends on the type of benefits and the eligibility rules associated therewith. There are different benefits provided by the military to its service men and women and their families. Disability benefits provided by the U.S. government that are also associated with a service-connected disability follow one set of rules as it relates to continuing eligibility, whereas, benefits received not incident to service follow a different set of rules. The best way to determine which rules apply, is to obtain a benefits summary from the individual and then review those with an attorney. The key question to address, therefore, is whether the benefits are needs-based, hence contingent on income and / or assets, or otherwise. If the former, the receipts of assets such as personal injury settlement proceeds could have an impact on continued eligibility for such benefits.
- Is it likely that a personal injury settlement related to physical injury sustained from use of a defective product in combat or other military activities would trigger a potential healthcare insurance reimbursement obligation to the VA?
The VA and Tricare have recovery rights under the MCRA (codified at 42 USC Sec. 2651), however, there is an exception for service connected disability. How much recovery and in what situations the VA and / or Tricare would be willing to pursue or potentially waive will depend on the case details. Generally, the VA would look at the fact pattern to determine the extent of its recovery rights, including how the military classified certain medical conditions. In some cases, the VA and / or Tricare may pursue recovery rights in their entirety. In others, they may be willing to compromise; again, depending on the existence and percentages of a service-connected disability determination. Best practice would therefore, have each attorney request copies of any disability determinations as a threshold matter to determine the likelihood of recovery activities. they may not.
At this stage in the litigation, Garretson is helping firms develop their 3M case inventories. To learn more about our Case Development services and to set up a time to discuss how we can help your firm, click below.