MT AIRY, Md. — When you go to the hospital, you expect the doctors and nurses who treat you to know what they're doing. Imagine if a loved one died because that didn't happen. There was medical malpractice.
Now imagine you couldn't be compensated for that negligence. That's what hundreds of military families went through until WUSA9 started digging. Laws were changed and now the military can compensate those families, but now we’ve learned most families are still waiting for their money.
It's been just over four years since Dana Way's son -- U.S. Marine Jordan Way—died.
“Jordan was, no challenge was too big, he went after it,” Jordan’s dad, Dana Way said. “He didn't let anything hamper him.”
Documents show the cause of the Hospital Corpsman’s 2017 death was opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at a military hospital in California. Records detail the Marine was following the orders of military doctors, who despite Jordan's concerns, kept increasing his pain killers.
“I just don't want this to happen to anybody else,” Jordan’s mom, Suzi, said. “I mean, we're four years. How many days is that? How many hours is that? How many minutes is that that we have been without our son.”
After his death, Jordan's parents joined the fight to allow service members and their families to file claims against the military for medical malpractice. Something that wasn't allowed until December of 2019 after reports by WUSA9. It wasn't until July of last year that the service branches finally started processing claims.
So, as we have for years now, we checked back in with the military to find out where this stands. There have been 153 claims filed with the Army, 101 in the Navy and 110 with the Air Force.
The Air Force is the only branch to come to any sort of settlement so far. It made four offers for a combined total of $35,325.
The Ways are still waiting to see where their claim stands with the Marine Corps.
“It's laughable,” Dana reacted to the numbers.
These are not just legal documents; these are service members, military families left waiting.
“It's dragging your feet,” Dana said.
Suzi hopes as these claims begin to get paid, they will bring more accountability because there's a financial consequence.
“That is the ultimate hope, for me at least, that these payouts, these claims, are so big that it makes the DOD, it makes the medical community within the Department of Defense think twice,” she said.
But that doesn't seem to be the case, at least not yet. We brought the issue to Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.
“I practiced law for 17 years before I got into statewide politics,” he said. "Medical malpractice cases are complicated.”
He sits on the Armed Services Committee.
“I'm not completely surprised,” Kaine reacted to the numbers. “I would encourage any Virginian who is having any concern about a claim that they filed if they want to reach out to our office, this is the kind of constituent service we do all the time.”
We asked the Ways what Jordan would think about his family still waiting on its claim.
“He would want this to all come to light, as we've been working for, and he would want these wrongs made right,” Suzi added.
We also asked each branch for a response.
U.S. Navy Spokesperson LCDR Devin Arneson:
“The length of the claims adjudication process depends upon many factors, including the complexity of the claim, the status and completeness of any investigation into the incident, and the sufficiency of the substantiating documentation provided by the claimant. Claimants are kept informed of the status of their claims throughout the process. For more information about process rules, visit this link."
U.S. Army Spokesperson Matt Leonard:
“The Army is currently working a total of 498 administrative medical malpractice claims. Of those, 153 have been brought under the amended Military Claims Act. Those claims raise novel issues, particularly concerning offsets against military benefits. Like the sister Services, the Army is working diligently to resolve these claims.”
U.S. Air Force Spokesperson Laurel P. Tingley:
“The Department of the Air Force was delegated authority to act on service-specific claims in July 2021. Since then, we’ve worked steadily to provide expert medical review and adjudication for each individual case. We’ll continue to work as quickly as possible to resolve outstanding claims.”
WUSA9 has been reporting on this issue for almost two years – bringing you stories of military families struggling with disease and loss. Now, they have good news.