Military.com|by Brian Mitchell
June 23, 2009
The family of a Marine Iraq war veteran who died from skin cancer after military physicians allegedly failed to properly treat the disease are cautiously optimistic after a bill named in his honor began its uphill path through Congress. The “Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act” cleared its first hurdle when it narrowly passed a House judicial subcommittee last month, paving the way for the possible reversal of the 59-year old Feres Doctrine that bars military members from suing the Defense Department for negligence. “We’ve moved forward and we’re excited about that,” Carmelo Rodriguez’s sister, Ivette Rodriguez, said in an interview with Military.com. “This is what my brother would have wanted. He did not anyone to have to go through what he suffered.” But a spokeswoman for the Veterans Equal Rights Protection Advocacy organization — widely known as VERPA — said the bill sponsored by a New York congressman has scant chance of becoming law. “The Senate will stonewall this. They’ve already made it clear no matter what happens in the House, this bill will not make it beyond the Senate,” Barb Cragnotti said in an interview with Military.com. The Feres Doctrine is the controversial result of a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that potentially impacts millions of American service members. It essentially bars troops from collecting damages from the Defense Department for negligence on the part of others that is incidental to service. Dependents are not included in the ruling, allowing scores of spouses and children to collect millions in damages from the Defense Department each year in connection with medical malpractice.