Via America’s Lawyer: Hundreds of service members were promised compensation for medical malpractice over a year ago. So why haven’t they seen a penny from the Pentagon yet? RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain how troops and veterans are still awaiting payouts to the tune of $2 billion.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: A new law allows troops to seek compensation from the military for medical malpractice at the defense department’s healthcare facilities and that’s unusual for more than a year after the law was passed, many victims haven’t received a payment. Brigida Santos joins me now to talk about this story. Brigida, since this law was enacted, how many medical malpractice claims have been filed at the Pentagon?
Brigida Santos: According to the most recent data available as of April, at least 227 cases are still pending. The landmark law passed as part of the 2020 national defense authorization act. But the final rule will take effect this July. So far, total compensation sought by troops or their surviving family members now exceeds $2 billion. And the reason this law is so important is because troops and their families have been barred from suing the military for injury or death at military hospitals since 1950, when a Supreme Court ruling concluded that the government is not liable for injuries to service members. While the new rules still don’t allow troops to sue, they do allow troops to seek compensation for harm caused by military health providers for the first time in cases unrelated to combat and they can do so by filing administrative claims with military branches.
Mike Papantonio: What kinds of malpractice have troops been subjected to at the military, from the medical facilities over these years? I mean, you hear these stories, I mean, since I practiced law here, the most horrible stories that take place in these facilities where the, the soldier has no recourse. What types of things should we expect to see?
Brigida Santos: Yeah, lawmakers were inspired to pass the new law after hearing many stories about troops not getting adequate healthcare at military medical facilities. And for example, in 2017 military health providers failed to see a lung mass during a CT scan on retired special forces officer Richard Stayskal. They told him he had asthma or pneumonia, but he was then diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer by a civilian doctor. DOD employed healthcare providers in military hospitals and clinics are no longer exempt from facing financial consequences for negligence or wrongful acts against troops and Congress passed this law despite objections from the Pentagon. So they’re trying to make it right by these troops.
Mike Papantonio: Well, there’s no risk for the doctor, is there? I mean, the troop comes in, the soldier comes in, they cut off the wrong leg. Gee, I’m sorry, I got it wrong. There’s this, there’s this immunity that exists under what they call the Feres document, the Feres doctrine, that, that’s now been overturned. And as we look at it, it’s long past due for this. So why, why has it taken so long for the Pentagon to go ahead and start paying these claims now that we know this is, this is the law, this is law of the land now, what’s happening?
Brigida Santos: Yeah. The Pentagon has been dragging its feet. It’s still finalizing its required compensation policy, but it does now have a uniform standard and procedures that are outlined for considering and processing claims. While this is a step in the right direction, preventing troops from having their cases heard in civilian courtrooms means that compensation can be limited by the military. There’ll be no discovery process for claimants to build their cases upon. They won’t be able to, you know, ask questions of doctors about things that went wrong. The review process will not be transparent and there will be no judicial review after a settlement is adjudicated by the military.
Mike Papantonio: Brigida, thank you for joining me. This, this is a beginning, at least. This, this gives a, a soldier, a chance to get good medical care because now, now the government is going to be responsible for putting the wrong doctor in the wrong place without the kind of background check that that doctor ought to have. Thank you for joining us.
Brigida Santos: Thanks, Mike.