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Troops could get payouts for medical malpractice aboard ships

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Troops injured in medical malpractice cases on board military ships would be able to seek compensation from the Defense Department under a proposal unveiled Wednesday.

The move would build upon existing rules approved by Congress two years ago that allow troops to receive cash payouts in instances where neglect and malpractice by military medical providers caused troops or family members serious harm.

But supporters noted that that policy does not cover injuries sustained aboard military ships’ clinics, operating rooms and intensive care units, leaving a gap for families of servicemembers injured in those incidents.

“This is the very least we can do for the brave women and men willing to put their lives on the line for our freedoms,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., sponsor of the new bill and a key voice in the previous military medical malpractice reforms.

The measure faces a difficult path to becoming law this year, given the abbreviated legislative schedule for Congress ahead of the November midterm elections. But the bill could be the baseline for future reforms to the DoD’s malpractice claims system.

Speier’s bill is named for Seaman Danyelle Luckey, who died aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in October 2016 after Navy medical staff misdiagnosed her sepsis.

Her family testified before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year about the pain of both losing her and not being able to hold military officials accountable for the mistakes that resulted in her death.

In a statement Wednesday, her family called on Congress to adopt the proposed reforms.

“It is bad enough that we each day suffer the pain of her loss, and our beautiful daughter will never have the full life she deserved,” they said.

“Adding to our heartache, we were not allowed to pursue a claim for this maltreatment because ‘technically’ a medical treatment facility on the naval vessel is not legally considered a military medical treatment facility. That is wrong.”

No timeline has been set for possible hearings or votes on the bill.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.



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