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Military members and the new right to file malpractice claims

A previous post discussed a new federal law that was awaiting the President's signature. Now that the law has been signed, active service members who receive treatment at military facilities will be able to file medical malpractice claims against those facilities in certain circumstances.

As our previous post discussed, the new law weakens an old decision by the United States Supreme Court. Under the old decision, members of the military were generally disallowed from suing military doctors and other medical professionals for malpractice, no matter how flagrant the case may have been.

There are some caveats to the new law. For one, military members will still not be able to obtain compensation for medical malpractice that is due to a job-related illness or injury, including illnesses or injuries that happen under combat conditions. Furthermore, the law is not opening up the court system, at least not directly, to service members who have malpractice claims against military providers. Rather, the law has created an administrative process in which members of the military can file claims that the government must review and either deny or approve for settlement. Still, the law is promising in that veterans now have some rights to recover for malpractice.

As for the former soldier whose efforts prompted this change in the law, he managed to settle his malpractice claim against the government for an undisclosed amount. As the previous post discussed, doctors misdiagnosed his cancer, and he is now expected to die because of his condition. The new federal provision allowing soldiers, sailors and airmen to file claims is named after him.

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