Rep. Jackie Speier (Calif.), Chair of the House Armed Services, Military Personnel Subcommittee, has introduced the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act (H.R.2422), which would allow military service members to sue the Department of Defense for instances of medical malpractice unrelated to their military duties. Currently, the Feres Doctrine prevents service members from having their day in court when malpractice by military health care providers unconnected to combat, results in severe injury or even death. The Feres Doctrine was established in 1950 from Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950), in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the military is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to members of the armed forces sustained while on active duty resulting from the negligence of others in the armed forces. The practical effect is that the Feres doctrine effectively bars service members from collecting damages from the United States Government for personal injuries experienced in the performance of their duties. It also bars families of service members from filing Wrongful Death actions when a service member is killed or injured. This exclusion does not extend to killed or injured family members, so a spouse or child may still sue the United States for tort claims. By creating an exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act to allow service members to sue the military for medical malpractice, the bill would give service members the same right as the fellow citizens they serve and protect. SFC Stayskal developed terminal lung cancer after being misdiagnosed in a military health facility.
“The Feres Doctrine is a travesty,” said Rep. Speier, “It denies service members who put their lives on the line for this country the same access to the justice system enjoyed by service member’s spouses, other federal employees, and even prisoners. Creating an exemption for medical malpractice is long overdue. I’m thrilled to have a bipartisan group of colleagues join me (co-sponsors) in addressing this injustice for our service members and their families, who bear the burden of service as well.” For more information, contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.
Sandra G. Van Zant
Veterans County Service Officer