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DoD Reforms Military Medical Malpractice Guidelines

Once upon a time, when you joined the military in the United States, you were at the mercy of the military medical system as an active duty soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, etc.

There was little to no recourse for those who suffered medical malpractice in the military healthcare system. But that has changed.

In 2019, the Department of Defense was forced to deal with medical malpractice claims within the military medical community thanks to the Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019. That legislation provided a legal mechanism for military members to file lawsuits for medical malpractice against uniformed and civilian providers.

DoD Changes Medical Malpractice Payout Rules

In 2024, the parameters were modified to these medical malpractice rules, potentially increasing the amount of compensation successful medical malpractice lawsuits could bring.

Under the original guidelines, a successful military medical malpractice suit would result in payment by the Defense Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs. But that payment amount is subject to an offset or reduction based on DoD pay or VA benefits payments the plaintiff receives.

But those rules are different now, with added financial benefit for the plaintiffs in a medical malpractice case.

Related: Disabled Veteran Benefits Guide

Revised Guidelines For Military Medical Malpractice Awards

Under revised DoD guidelines, the offset mentioned above applies only to an estimate of future income or income lost due to the malpractice. The offset no longer applies to damages awarded for pain, suffering, or related issues.

Who is affected by this rule? According to the Federal Register, “At the end of Fiscal Year 2022, there were approximately 1,410,000 Active Duty Service members, and 440,000 Reserve and National Guard members eligible for DoD healthcare benefits.”

The Federal Register adds that these troops may “be able to file claims with DoD alleging malpractice from care at DoD military medical treatment facilities.”

Why Change The Rules?

Both the Federal Register and military-oriented blogs note that before the 2024 rule changes, a malpractice lawsuit settlement to a military member resulted in potentially little or no financial compensation. The lawsuit’s success under those circumstances seems little more than a symbolic victory. No longer, at least where “noneconomic damages” are concerned.

Some might be justified in saying the economic damages should not be offset either, but any progress in favor of a plaintiff in a malpractice case is a step in the right direction.

As is a 2023 change in the amount of noneconomic damages (again, for pain and suffering, related issues) cap from $600 thousand to $750 thousand is also an important development.

How Claims Are Affected By The New DoD Rules

Some claims may have been caught in the middle between the old DoD guidelines and the revised guidelines. In such cases, the DoD announced that such claims would be decided upon once the new rules became effective, not before. In other words, they will be adjudicated with the more permissive guidelines, not the more restrictive ones from years past.

Related: Disabled Veteran Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.