Military members often receive care from military medical centers. These facilities operate under the government, making the federal government liable for what happens to patients.
However, in the past, military members had no recourse if there was a medical malpractice situation. The U.S. Supreme Court set the precedent in a 1950 case, Feres v. United States, but that has recently changed.
The 1950 case
In Feres, the Court ruled that active members of the military could not sue the government for any reason. Essentially, the ruling meant that any personnel suffering due to the negligence of a military doctor had no recourse. These doctors had a complete shield from any legal liability.
In 2019, things changed. President Donald Trump signed a defense bill into law that had provisions allowing service members to make malpractice claims and collect damages from the government. It does not throw out or overturn the Feres decision but rather provides an exemption for malpractice issues.
The hope is the change will improve military medical care. They have been under a shield for a long time, allowing doctors to get relaxed in their care because there was no chance of a malpractice suit. But now that they may have to face the consequences of negligence, they may be more careful and increase the level of care.
Changes to the law helped to stop military medical providers from being immune to bad decisions and wrong actions. The change may help to improve military medical care, but it will also give harmed patients a chance to recover damages.