Last week the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) endorsed the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Accountability Act (H.R. 1478/S. 1347); legislation that would restore members of the unformed services right to seek legal recourse when they suffer the effects of medical malpractice in military facilities.
Such legal recourse is available to all other citizens, including military dependents, military retirees and survivors and their dependents, and even federal prisoners and wartime detainees. The legislation was named for Rodriguez, a Marine sergeant whose skin melanoma went recognized but untreated by military doctors. The skin cancer took Rodriguez’s life when he was only 29 years old.
The legislation would also help Colonel Adele Connell, a soldier with over 35 years of military service who earned the Legion of Merit award, the fourth highest honor that the US Army can bestow on a Soldier. Colonel Connell had 17 lymph nodes removed from the right side of her body to combat breast cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer was on the left side of her body. The act was simple carelessness because the doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center did not take the time to ensure which side of the body the cancer was located.
Both Rodriguez and Connell deserve their day in court, but because the Supreme Court decision in Feres v. United 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 resulting from the negligence of others in the armed forces. Hopefully MOAA’s endorsement of the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Accountability Act will push Congress to pass this important legislation and restore the rights of service members that every citizen enjoys.