Until recently, the brave men and women actively putting their lives on the line for our country were unable to seek justice for their military medical malpractice claims. From 1950 until 2019, active duty service members were barred from filing claims against the Department of Defense or federal government over injuries or deaths that occurred as a result of military service pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135 (1950). This prevented active duty service members from filing civil suits for military medical malpractice. Fortunately, these service members were given the opportunity to file a claim against the U.S. and seek compensation when Congress enacted the bipartisan cosponsored Stayskal Provision in 2019.
The Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, also referred to as the Stayskal Provision, was named for Army Master Sergeant Richard Stayskal. Master Sergeant Stayskal, a father of two and member of the Green Berets, lobbied tirelessly for this legislation after he suffered a missed diagnosis of lung cancer at a military hospital when he was just 36 years old. In his congressional testimony, Stayskal explained that his symptoms were overlooked and ignored at the military hospital for six months, until he was finally permitted to go off base to see a specialist who immediately diagnosed him with terminal lung cancer. When Stayskal learned he could not bring a medical malpractice claim for the care he received at the military hospital pursuant to the Feres doctrine, he knew he had to do something to change this.
The purpose of the Feres doctrine is to protect healthcare providers who are providing medical care in combat situations or emergency care in a training environment, yet it was expanded to prevent active duty servicemen and servicewomen from bringing medical malpractice claims for all aspects of the military’s medical system. Although the Feres doctrine still remains in effect, the Stayskal Provision allows Department of Defense Officials to review individual claims of personal injury or death caused by a Department of Defense healthcare provider for circumstances like those surrounding Master Sergeant Stayskal’s care.
According to the Department of Defense’s guidelines on this, a substantiated claim under $100,000 will be paid directly to the member or his/her estate by the Department of Defense and the Treasury Department will review and pay claims that the Secretary of Defense values at more than $100,000. The guidelines also specify that service members must present a claim that is received by the Department of Defense within two years after the claim accrues. Of the 448 medical malpractice claims filed with the Army, Navy, and Air Force, only eleven were settled as of October 2022. Nevertheless, the family of an Army soldier who was a victim of military medical malpractice recently received a multimillion dollar settlement.
If you or a loved one experience a medical malpractice injury while under the care of healthcare providers at a military or veterans’ hospital, you should reach out to an attorney right away. Contact the experienced attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC if you have any questions about your legal rights regarding this concern. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call or contact us online today.