feres doctrine

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Feres doctrine is a legal doctrine that prevents members of the armed forces who are injured while on active duty from successfully suing the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The doctrine was articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Feres v. United States, wherein the court provided three reasons to support the Feres Doctrine: (1) the parallel private liability required by the FTCA was absent, (2) Congress could not have intended that local tort law governs the “distinctively federal” relationship between the Government and military personnel, and (3) Congress could not have intended to make FTCA claims available to military personnel who have already received veterans’ benefits to compensate them for injuries suffered incident to service.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) created a limited exception to the Feres doctrine “for personal injury or death incident to the service of a member of the uniformed services that was caused by the medical malpractice of a Department of Defense health care provider,” provided that the “act or omission constituting medical malpractice occurred in a covered military medical treatment facility.”

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]