We all know medical malpractice is a major problem. Thankfully there are laws that help protect patients from incompetent healthcare providers. But have you ever wondered if you can sue the military for medical malpractice?

You would think so. Sadly, you can’t if you belong to the group of 1.3 million active duty military members.

Members of our armed forces can’t file a lawsuit against government healthcare providers. Even if the nurse or provider treating them was completely incompetent and caused harm.

This means that the people who risk their lives to protect our country don’t have the same privileges or protection that we do.

Seems unfair. But could that change? More on that soon.

Can You Sue The Military? (Medical Malpractice Laws)

Suing the government is very long and tedious. That said, if something happens to you, you’d probably want the option to sue for compensation. Now, for most of us, the government allows this under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

If you’re active duty military however, brace yourself for an unpleasant surprise. Active members of the military do NOT have the right. But why?

The Feres Doctrine

The reason active members of the military can’t sue the military for medical malpractice has to do with a little something called The Feres Doctrine. It’s a law that originates from the famous Feres v. United States case (dating back to the 1950’s). It’s a controversial case where active service members became unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.

Based on the rule, active duty members can’t sue the military for injuries and damages that occurred during their duties. Even when it’s blatantly clear that someone is at fault. The bill also denies military dependents the ability to sue the federal government for any claims that involve active service members.

So, say your spouse experiences malpractice by a military medical professional. Maybe a nurse administered the wrong medication or a doctor misdiagnosed an illness. No matter the severity or the cause, you can’t sue.

A picture full of military dogtags hanging.

Who Can Sue The Military Doctors?

Okay, so unless the law changes, active service members can’t sue the military. But who can?

There are exceptions but the following groups often have the right to seek legal action:

Military dependents or spouses and children of an active service member (even a newborn child born to an active duty mother, who experiences a birth injury).

Retired military personnel who received injuries caused by substandard medical treatment at VA (Veteran Administration), DOD, and other federal healthcare facilities.

Veterans who received inadequate medical treatment at a VA facility or other federal hospitals.

And here’s an interesting tidbit. Service members can actually seek compensation for emotional distress should their family member be injured under military care.

The New Bill to Change the Current Ruling About Suing The Military For Malpractice

Most of us would agree that our service members should be treated with respect. People who dedicate their lives to serve our country deserve the same medical legal rights as everyone else.

Recently, partisan party created a new measure to change the outdated ruling.

A heart-jerking testimony from victims of military medical malpractice initiated the bill. A group of lawmakers then announced new legislation that would amend the current law.

Progress.

This new rule would give all military personnel safe medical treatment:

“We’re not talking about special treatment. We’re talking about giving service members the same rights as their spouses, federal workers, and even prisoners. When compensation schemes are insufficient, service members should have their claims heard in the justice system.” -Rep. Jackie Speier.

This bill, if it goes through, will finally allow active duty military members to sue the military for medical malpractice. (Keep an eye on the bill’s progress here.)

Final Thoughts

Military medical malpractice, as we all know, is inevitable. U.S. legislation protects most of us and allows us to sue the military for malpractice. So that’s good. But again, active duty service members cannot.

The silver lining at the end of this tunnel is the new bill that will hopefully change that. Amending the Feres doctrine will hold military doctors accountable to provide safe and competent medical treatment for all military members and dependents, including the 1.3 million active duty members in the US.