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Military Claims Process Seems Designed to Fail

It used to be that active military members could not bring claims for medical malpractice against military medical care providers. In December 2019, that changed with an addition to the National Defense Authorization Act (the NDAA).

However, that change was not quite what we had hoped for. The attorneys who work in the medical malpractice field and who bring claims on behalf of veterans and their families had hoped that these would be treated the same way as our cases against care providers who work for Veterans Affairs medical centers and clinics. Those cases allow us to file suit against the United States if the VA denies the administrative claim. Generally, that means that VA must consider the claim at least somewhat honestly if they do not want to deal with a lawsuit later on.

The change in law created by the NDAA allowed administrative claims to be filed with the various military branches for their medical malpractice, but does not allow for the claimant to sue if the military branch denies their claim. That means there's no oversight and the branches are free to ignore the claims, make egregious mistakes, or simply fail to treat the claim seriously or honestly. I'm not saying that are treating these claims in that way, I'm saying there is no oversight which would limit their ability to do so without repercussion.

However, that does raise the question, since the law has been in place, how have they done?

The following article indicates that they have been doing extremely poorly. The Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have all received claims totalling over several hundred. According to this article, eleven have been settled - roughly 2.5%. Perhaps even worse, hundreds are still under investigation. That means the military is taking far too long to process these claims.

A particularly sad example is the Soldier for whom the NDAA's changes were named: Sgt 1st Class Richard Stayskal. He is an example of why the law was changed. He has medical evidence clearly supporting his claim against the Army. He still waits for a decision.

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