Military Groups Oppose GOP Malpractice Reform

‘Those decisions should be left to the states.’

Today a broad national coalition of organizations representing U.S. military personnel and veterans came out strongly against H.R.1215, the House Republican leadership’s bill to impose federal medical malpractice reforms on the states.

A copy of the letter has come into my hands, but since I can’t find it posted online, I’m posting it here for convenient reference.

I’ve highlighted a couple of lines in bold, for emphasis.

The House is expected to vote on the bill as soon as next week.

Full text of the letter:

June 5, 2017

Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Steny Hoyer
Minority Whip
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable John Conyers
Ranking Member, Judiciary Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: Veterans Service Organization oppose H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.”

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader McCarthy, Leader Pelosi, Whip Hoyer, Chairman Goodlatte, and Ranking Member Conyers:

We, the undersigned military and veterans service organizations, oppose H.R. 1215, the misnamed “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.”

Rather than providing for additional healthcare protections to our veterans and military families, the bill would limit their ability to hold health care providers, drug manufacturers and medical products providers accountable for pain, suffering, and death that result from substandard care, preventable medical errors, and defective drugs and devices.

Our military, veterans, and their families who provide support during their service, deserve the best possible care. However, as you know all too well, VA hospitals and other military medical facilities across the country have been the subject of scrutiny and investigation for substandard care, severe understaffing, and in some cases repeated patterns of negligent treatment of their patients. H.R. 1215 would limit the amount of compensation veterans and their families would receive for pain and suffering, and wrongful death, if they find themselves suffering injury due to this sort of treatment.

As you know, claims against veterans’ hospitals and military medical facilities are brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Under the FTCA, the state tort law where the act or omission occurred is applied to the case. If H.R. 1215 were to become law, large areas of state tort law that currently protect our veterans and their families who have been injured due to medical malpractice would be preempted, including, but not limited to, 18 states that do not currently have caps on damages. Additionally, most states with damages caps are fairer than the proposed bill that caps recovery at $250,000.00. H.R. 1215 would preempt these state tort laws and cap non-economic damages at $250,000 for veterans and military families who are injured or killed as a result of medical treatment provided and/or dangerous drugs and devices.

Numerous veterans and military families would be hurt by this bill. For example, consider the case of Lt. Col. Clarence Lee from Texas, who served six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and was in the Pentagon when it was hit on 9/11. Instead of running out of the building to safety, he ran directly to the daycare and helped safely evacuate all of the children. Upon returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Lee had to endure an even harder challenge, when his two-year old son almost died from medical malpractice at a San Antonio military hospital. Because of the gross malpractice committed, his son required two kidney transplants to survive and will continue to need additional transplants and care into his adulthood. One of those kidneys came from his own father. If H.R. 1215 existed at the time Lt. Col. Lee’s son’s access to justice would have been severely limited, if not denied altogether.

Another example is Sgt. Sandy Timmons from Oklahoma. Sandy recently retired from the Air Force where she bravely served as a combat medic in Iraq. She was exposed to more than 120 IED blasts during her service. As a result, she returned from the war with a Traumatic Brain Injury. In 2005, Sandy delivered her son at an Air Force hospital in Florida. However, during labor the doctor overstimulated her uterus which caused her baby to suffer oxygen loss. Despite her baby showing signs of oxygen deprivation for hours on the fetal monitor strip, the doctor did not deliver the baby until he almost died. Due to the doctor’s negligence, her son was deprived of oxygen so long that he suffered a permanent brain injury. He is now 11 years old, has partial paralysis in his legs and arms, impaired vision and hearing, is incontinent and has a seizure disorder. He will need around the clock care and treatment for the rest of his life. Thankfully, H.R. 1215 did not exist at the time, and this decorated military family did not have to suffer two tragedies. Their case was allowed to fairly proceed and Sgt. Timmons’ child ‘s lifelong disabilities and medical needs will be met.

This broad overreaching federal law should not dictate recovery for every single veteran and military family in all 50 states. Those decisions should be left to the states and the federal government should never be in the position of providing less recovery and aid to veterans and military families. But this is exactly what H.R. 1215 will do.

Our veterans and military families deserve more protection and accessibility to healthcare, not less. We strongly urge Congress to put our veterans and military families first, and oppose H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.”

Thank you,

Air Force Women Officers Associated
Naval Enlisted Reserve Association
Army Aviation Association of America
Non Commissioned Officers Association of the USA
Association of the United States Navy
The Retired Enlisted Association
Commissioned Officers Association of USCG
Chief Petty Officers Association
The US Public Health Service, Inc.
Fleet Reserve Association
US Army Warrant Officers Association
Jewish War Veterans of the USA
Vietnam Veterans of America
Marine Corps League

Dean Clancy, a former senior official in the White House and Congress, writes on U.S. health reform, budget, and constitutional issues. Follow him at or on twitter @deanclancy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *