Massachusetts residents who serve in the military often seek medical treatment from a military hospital. While past legal precedents denied servicemembers the right to sue for medical malpractice, the National Defense Authorization Act changed the longstanding tradition and allowed a path for military servicemembers to do so.
The Feres Doctrine prevented any servicemember from suing the federal government. It applied to active duty members of the military and was the guiding authority on military medical lawsuits since 1950.
Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019
In 2020, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act. Included in the act was the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019. This act provided an exception to the Feres Doctrine for medical malpractice.
Process for military medical malpractice claims
The Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act stated that the military must implement an administrative body to hear any medical malpractice claims from active duty service members. These claims may be filed in the following location:
• Any U.S. state
• All U.S. territories
• Oversea military bases
Legal action for people who are not on active duty
While the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act applies to active-duty personnel, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit for medical malpractice even if you are not an active-duty servicemember. The following groups of people may typically sue for medical malpractice against the military:
• Dependents of an active-duty servicemember
• Military veterans
• Retired veterans who receive VA hospital care
Although military personnel have the right to file malpractice claims, the battles may take years to resolve. Additionally, the military has to date only approved 2% of all medical malpractice claims.
Long legal journey
Despite the legal rights of servicemembers and their families to file medical malpractice claims, the pursuit of those claims may take years to complete. Today may be the day to begin the process.