Disability Claims & the Military’s Feres Doctrine

Disability Claims & the Military’s Feres Doctrine

We often hear about military service members getting injured overseas, in combat or during training. However, we hardly ever hear about the injuries sustained in our military medical healthcare facilities right here in America, and we rarely hear about the difficulty our service men and women have in obtaining damages for injuries sustained as a result of medical malpractice, negligence, or both.

Medical malpractice can be a major issue in military hospitals, but unfortunately, it may often go unreported. In recent years, however, there have been a number of military medical malpractice stories that have reached the ears of civilians and risen to public attention.

Ortiz v. United States of America

On March 16th, 2009, Air Force Captain Heather Ortiz arrived at Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado for a routine Cesarean section. In preparation for the surgery, Captain Ortiz was given Zantac—a drug that her medical records clearly indicated she was allergic to. To counteract the reaction that ensued, she was administered an antihistamine, which triggered a severe drop in blood pressure and eventually hypotension. The hypotension eventually deprived Ortiz’s then-unborn daughter, Isabella, oxygen.

When Isabella was born later that evening, she was born with extensive brain and nerve damage, which today—nearly seven years later—continues to require Captain Ortiz and her husband, Jorge, to invest thousands of dollars into ongoing occupational and physical therapy, special equipment, and special accommodations at school (MilitaryTimes.com).

In the civilian world, a medical malpractice suit could be in order. In the military, though, medical malpractice claims are nearly non-existent. This is not because military doctors are any better than civilian doctors, but likely due to a little-known doctrine referred to as the Feres Doctrine.

The Feres Doctrine

Isabella’s father, Jorge, filed a medical malpractice suit against the Army hospital to no avail. The court dismissed the case, citing the Feres Doctrine, which states, “The United States is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to members of the armed forces sustained while on active duty and not on furlough and resulting from the negligence of others in the armed forces” (Feres v. United States 340 U.S. 135 (1950)). When Jorge Ortiz appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this past December, he was told that his daughter’s injuries were directly related to her mother’s injuries, and therefore, the Feres Doctrine was appropriately applied.

The Feres doctrine makes it difficult for military members and their families to demand the quality of medical care they need and deserve. Furthermore, it makes it difficult for them to receive damages when negligence is clearly at fault. It shouldn’t be that way.

At Klok Law Firm LLC, we work to protect veterans’ rights and to give veterans a voice when it could feel like everyone else has stopped listening. If you or a loved one has been injured or disabled as a result of negligence or medical malpractice at a military medical facility, we can work with you to help you get the compensation you need and deserve.

Work with a South Carolina Veterans’ Disability Attorney

Though it is difficult to work around the Feres Doctrine and file a successful disability claim against the government for injuries sustained as a result of medical malpractice and negligence, it is not impossible. To pursue your case, you must first file an administrative claim with the military. If your claim is denied, you can take it to the appropriate United States District Court within six months of filing your initial disability claim. Our veterans’ disability attorneys can help you navigate the claims process and build a case in your favor.

Contact us today to speak with one of our experienced disability attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC.