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Health & Medicine

U.S. DoD Expands Damages in Service Member Malpractice Claims

— May 24, 2024

New protections have been put into place to address medical misconduct and claim denials.

In a significant move aimed at addressing concerns over medical malpractice within the military healthcare system, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has announced an expansion of damages available to service members and their families when filing medical malpractice claims. The news came in the form of creating a Final Rule in the Federal Register under the heading “Medical Malpractice Claims by Members of the Uniformed Services,” and the agency’s decision marks a crucial step forward in taking tangible steps amid mounting pressures.

For years, service members and their families have been reporting significant flaws in the system’s malpractice coverages, including misdiagnoses, delays in crucial treatment, and surgical errors, all of which can have life-threatening consequences. Against widespread knowledge of military health care grievances and continued filings, the DoD is finally taking measures to address these issues.

The recent decision is centered primarily around increasing the amount of damages available to military personnel and their families in filing claims. This includes increasing the types of compensation which might be awarded, including damages for pain and suffering, loss of work/earnings, and punitive damages (financial penalties for misconduct).

U.S. DoD Expands Damages in Service Member Malpractice Claims
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“The amendments to the regulation will allow some service members to receive compensation for noneconomic damages that they would not have been able to receive under the current regulation,” the DoD wrote in its rule. “The amendments afford some service members additional compensation.”

By expanding the scope of damages, the department is aiming to extend more sufficient monetary support to families while simultaneously sending a blanket warning to healthcare entities to be mindful of quality of care moving forward. Its decision presents a sounder avenue to pursue increased restitution and rectification for injuries resulting from major medical mistakes.

Advocates argue that service member and their families should be afforded the same protections against malpractice as the general public, and perhaps, enhanced protections as the health of these members is placed at significant risk because of military obligations.

“People have the right to sue if they are victims of malpractice, except for service members. It’s time to stop treating them like second-class citizens. It’s got to stop,” said Master Sgt. Richard Stayskal who, along with his wife, filed claims for $20 million for pain and suffering but was denied.

At the same time, some critics have expressed concerns about the potential impact on military healthcare providers and the overall functioning of the military medical system, voicing concerns that increased liabilities may limit provider availability for service members due to fear and put an undue financial strain on an already overburdened system of care.

Either way, the implications of the move are bound to be far-reaching for both service members and their families, as well as the medical providers who serve this population. While the long-term impact is yet to be seen, the rule is a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing the gravity of medical malpractice claims in a meaningful way.


Federal Register: Medical Malpractice Claims by Members of the Uniformed Services

New Pentagon Rule on Malpractice Claims Could Put More Money in Pockets of Troops, Veterans

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