LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – A Lubbock mother is fighting the U.S. military, which she says failed to treat her son’s head wound and left him to die alone for nearly six days.
Caleb Smither was only on the Fort Bragg base in North Carolina for seven weeks before his mother learned he had been found dead in his bunk.
His cause of death was bacterial meningitis, although hospital reports indicate he was vomiting water, sensitive to light, shaking and pale in the days before his death.
Private Smither was given goggles and forced to stay in his room. Criminal investigators discovered that the soldiers lied about being watched.
Other statements from soldiers say they sprayed Febreze to cover up the rotting smell.
“Not only do we have medical malpractice, but we have gross negligence and are not following orders. And it caused the death of my son,” Caleb’s mother, Heather Baker, said.
Phone records show that Smither did not contact anyone after Jan. 15. His body was found on January 21. The Ministry of Defense refuses to consider his telephone records as evidence since his death was ruled of natural cause.
“He was vomiting water. He hadn’t eaten. It’s strange to me that at the end of the day they can say he had acute bacterial meningitis when acute bacterial meningitis is very contagious,” Baker said.
Out of pain and frustration, Smither’s mother tries a different approach to try to get justice from the military.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Feres case found that service members cannot sue the military for injury or negligence, but in 2020 Congress added an amendment, called the Stayskal Act, allowing service members to lodge an administrative complaint in the event of medical malpractice. .
In Smither’s case, the quality assurance report and death inquest are still ongoing nearly two years after his death.
Baker’s attorney, Daniel Maharaj, said he filed a complaint, but the military is conducting its own investigation.
“Ultimately, if the military decides to deny the claim, there is a avenue to appeal the claim; however, it is internal, again, directly to the same group,” Maharaj said.
Across the Army, Navy and Air Force, more than 350 claims have been filed since the Stayskal Act was passed in 2020.
Only two claims obtained the minimum of $10,000 to $20,000. The DoD received $400 million for these repair claims.
“There are still people there. They are allowed to keep their jobs, allowed to continue helping people, supposedly doing their jobs as medical personnel. They’re not even certified properly, and they’re still around. And they’re taking care of somebody else’s kid. They’re taking care of somebody else’s patriots. And it doesn’t do me any good,” Baker said.
Recently, the Government of Accountability Office conducted a preliminary investigation by checking four random bases. It revealed that nearly one in six doctors did not have a verified medical license before practicing and did not have documented assessment requirements when treating someone.
Private Smither is just one of nearly 75% of our military who die out of combat, 93% of them on US soil, according to a congressional study.
The GOA will conduct a full survey including all bases this summer.
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