WASHINGTON — Maryland native Jordan Way died of opioid toxicity in 2017 after following the orders of military doctors, who -- despite Jordan's concerns -- kept increasing his pain killers after shoulder surgery.
“Our son was never deployed,” Jordan's mom, Suzi Way, said. “He lost his life in a military hospital in the United States.”
Now, Jordan's parents are fighting another battle: filing claims for medical malpractice on behalf of their son.
"You could pay me every gold bar in the world, and it’s not going to bring my son back," Jordan's dad, Dana Way, said. "It is not about the money. It is about holding people accountable."
Suzi and Dana are just one example of service members or their families struggling to receive malpractice claims. Congress authorized the Department of Defense to process and pay those claims in last year's National Defense Authorization Act. Before then, those in the military and their families didn't feel they could hold their doctors accountable if something went wrong.
But almost a year later, there's still no process to do what Congress has authorized. The target date officials gave Congress has come and gone, and not a single dollar has been paid.
WUSA9 has been asking DOD about the process for months. We’ve been trying to figure out when it will be released, what's taking so long and when service members can expect to get this compensation. Each time a spokesperson has said they're working on it.
“Section 731 of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 did not contain a deadline for publication of the Interim Final Rule, although as I mentioned, development of the Interim Final Rule is well underway and the Department is working diligently to publish it,” DOD Spokesperson Lisa Lawrence wrote.
But this delay has caused families like the Ways to worry whether they will ever see any action.
“You start thinking, 'Oh God, this is going to get swept underneath the rug again,'" Suzi Way said. "Our service members, they're not going to get accountable medical."
So, WUSA9 went back to Congress, which holds the purse strings, for answers.
“I am a little bit willing to give DOD some slack on the timing because they've been dealing with some hard issues,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D), who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said. “The COVID effects on DOD operations have been absolutely massive. But I think they should have been able to do it before now."
California Rep. Jackie Speier (D) pushed the original effort. WUSA9 asked her if this timeline is acceptable.
“Well, it's not acceptable,” she said. “I think that this becomes a black eye for the Department of Defense that they cannot move more swiftly.”
WUSA9 followed up, asking what Congress can do to motivate the Department to move swiftly.
“There are lots of ways to motivate DOD,” Speier said. “I can assure you that I am putting pressure on them.”
In the meantime, families like the Ways said this is not about getting the money, but holding people accountable. They hope officials hear their message.
“Do your job to make the Department of Defense do their job," Suzi Way said. "And save these young men and women."