The Feres Doctrine, Service Members, & the Courts

Dwight Stirling is CEO and Co-Founder of the Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI), having general executive oversight over the Legal Services Division and Think Tank.

Laura Riley is a practicing public interest attorney and has published many legal articles, including three in Los Angeles Lawyer.

Under the Feres doctrine, a policy stemming from a 1950 Supreme Court case states military personnel are categorically banned from filing suits for harm incurred while on duty. The denial of judicial review extends to non-combat-related injuries such as sexual assault and medical malpractice. Since its inception, commentators have vehemently condemned the doctrine, arguing that it is unjust to deny basic civil liberties to the men and women who preserve our collective freedom. Still, the policy remains controlling U.S. policy.

The program explored the doctrine from a public policy perspective, examining the attempts to change it, the societal values it represents, and the effect it has on the nation as a whole.