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Illustration by Security Management

U.S. Troops Might Soon be Able to Sue for Medical Malpractice

In 1950, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that troops and their families could not sue the U.S. federal government for injuries or deaths minorly related to military service. The ruling in Feres v. the United States stemmed from Lt. Rudolph Feres' widow's attempt to sue the U.S. Army for negligence over his death. It resulted in a wide range of protections insulating the government, explaining that it was not liable for soldiers' injuries while on active duty.

This ruling has been successfully applies to several suits and situations, according to The New York Times, including radiation exposure during nuclear tests, being raped by a drill sergeant, the military captain on active duty flying the space shuttle Challenger, and many others. 

To provide a remedy for some troops to file medical-related lawsuits, the U.S. House of Represenatives included a provision to allow troops to file suits against the U.S. military for medical malpractice in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that funds the military. 

The bill would also allow for claims against military health providers in medical facilities in non-combat zones, but does not allow for malpractice tort claims, according to the Military Times. The U.S. Department of Defense would pay claims of less than $100,000 that were awarded to plaintiffs in these suits; larger awards would be paid by the U.S. Department of Treasury. 

The U.S. Senate previously passed its own version of the bill. Congress is now working resolve differences between the House and Senate legislation before sending it to U.S. President Donald Trump to sign into law.