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Congress Tackling Loophole That Snares NY Military Personnel

June 1, 2009

Albany, NY – Congress is marching forward quickly toward closing a loophole that affects New York military personnel, and active-duty troops throughout the country, who are harmed through medical malpractice. Right now, they have no right to take such cases to court, although their spouses, as well as retired military personnel, do have the right to hold the government accountable in their own cases.

Susan Steinman with the American Association for Justice says the Carmelo Rodriquez Military Medical Accountability Act is named after a Marine Corps sergeant from Ellenville, NY, who died of skin cancer in 2007 because of military-documented preventable medical negligence.

"We should be taking care of our military personnel the right way, and if we don't, they should have a remedy. It shouldn't be that they're left by themselves, that their family members are left with nothing."

The bill, introduced by New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey, has already been approved by the House Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee.

Steinman says the Carmelo Rodriguez story is not an isolated incident. Her group has collected evidence from around the country, including cases affecting New Yorkers and their families.

"Other cases include people who have gone in for surgery and have had wrong-site surgery. As well, there have been issues with improper sterilization of equipment."

A 1950 Supreme Court ruling banned active-duty military personnel, or their surviving family members, from going to court over malpractice related to non-combat injuries. Steinman says the bill to reverse that ruling hasn't encountered any opposition yet.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY