SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We’ve heard a lot about impeachment during the last two weeks of the year. But also during that time, Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law a historic change for those in the military.
Now, for the first time ever, active duty and veterans can sue the federal government for medical malpractice.
The law change is part of the National Defense Authorization Act. One veteran says the new law gives people like her the legal strength needed when things go horribly wrong.
“There’s going to be some acknowledgements of accountability and that’s going to make a world of difference for so many of us,” said veteran Sherry Futch.
Sherry Futch served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Stewart. She made the decision to leave after becoming pregnant with her fourth child, and not wanting to relive what she says was a traumatic experience while pregnant on Post.
While at Fort Stewart, her son Camden died in utero when she was 31 weeks pregnant.
“All I could tell my five year old at the time, was yeah, we’re going to have a baby. And not be able to explain to her that her brother would be born, but not go home with us,” said Futch.
Postpartum pregnancy complications left her with a diagnosis of severe depression and nerve damage to her left arm. She wanted to sue, but couldn’t.
At the time, the Feres Doctrine of 1950 prohibited active duty military from suing the federal government for medical malpractice.
“My options were I could get out and try to sue and I may not win the case, but I would never be able to go back. I had no career, only a year of college. At the time, I was a single mother with two children,” said Futch.
So she stayed.
Three weeks ago, her options changed. When on Dec. 20th, President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act.
It allows members of the armed forces to make medical malpractice claims and sue the federal government. U.S. Representative Buddy Carter voted for the change and explained why.
“Our veterans deserve every bit of the best healthcare that they can possibly get and they deserve to be able to file for medical malpractice if that’s is something that in fact happens,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia’s 1st District.
For veterans like Futch, she says it’s a step in the right direction. And she hopes it leads to an overhaul of the entire military healthcare system.
“I think that it’s important that they call people in like myself and other soldiers as well as civilian doctors, civilian experts and hear our stories and see what changes can be made,” said Futch.
The new law does include a statute of limitations. It remains to be seen how it will affect veterans like Futch.
When Fort Stewart was contacted about this story and Futch’s claims, it says all military treatment facilities will adhere to the changes in the law.
And it will continue to address medical complaints and claims.
You can read through the National Defense Authorization Act below: