A significant portion of your duties as an LN will
entail the investigation and processing of claims.
Claims involving the United States Government and its
military activities are governed by a complex system of
statutes, regulations, and procedures. This chapter is not
a substitute for the official departmental claims
regulations published in the JAG Manual and JAGINST
5890.1, Administrative Processing and Consideration
of Claims on Behalf of and Against the United States.
It is, however, a useful starting point for research into
This chapter is organized to reflect the various
claims statutes and their respective functions in the
Claims involving the federal
government are of two types:
1. Claims in which the federal government is a
claimant seeking compensation.
2. Claims against the government for which a
claimant seeks compensation. These can be further
divided into two functional categories:
a. General claims statutes, such as the Federal
Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Military Claims Act
(MCA), that provide for payment of claims arising out
of a broad range of incidents and situations.
b. Specialized claims statutes, such as the
Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act
and the Foreign Claims Act (FCA), that provide for
payment of claims arising out of specific types of
incidents or to only specific classes of claimants.
Claims are adjudicated by a complex system of
interesting statutes, regulations, and procedures.
Claims that are not covered by one of the general claims
statutes are frequently payable under one of the
specialized statutes. Thus, specialized statutes can fill
gaps in areas where the general statutes do not provide
coverage. Conversely, some claims are not cognizable
under one of the general statutes because one of the
specialized statutes may apply to the claim. Likewise,
classes of persons barred by statute or regulation from
collecting under a general claims statute often can be
compensated under one of the specialized statutes.
Examples in this chapter will demonstrate the
interaction of the various claims statutes, regulations,
and procedures. The key to understanding claims law
is to realize that it involves a logical system of
interacting provisions and not just a perplexing labyrinth
of seemingly unrelated rules.
FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT
The Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346,
2671-2680 (1982) (FTCA), was a product of many years
of congressional deliberations and considerations.
Before 1946, if a person was wrongfully injured by a
federal employee who had acted within the scope of his
or her federal employment, the doctrine of sovereign
immunity barred that injured party from suing the
government for compensation. This doctrine often had
the effect of denying fair compensation to persons with
meritorious claims. At that time, the only available form
of redress was the private billa system whereby the
injured party could be compensated for his or her injury
by a special act of Congress. This system was
cumbersome and resulted in thousands of private bills
annually. This system was also unfair to those who
lacked sufficient influence to have a representative
introduce a private bill on their behalf.
The FTCA was enacted with the intent of providing
a more equitable, comprehensive system. The FTCA
provides for compensation for personal injury, death,
and property damage caused by the negligent conduct
of federal employees acting within the scope of federal
It also covers certain intentional,
wrongful acts. There are, however, three general types
of exceptions from government liability under the
FTCA. First, the government is protected from liability
arising out of certain types of governmental actions.
Second, the FTCA will not provide compensation when
one of the specialized claims statutes (discussed later in
this chapter) covers the claim. Third, certain classes of
claimants, such as active duty military personnel, are
prevented from recovering under the FTCA, although
they may be compensated under other statutes.
SCOPE OF LIABILITY
The law defines negligence as the failure to exercise
the degree of care, skill, or diligence that a reasonable
person would exercise under the same circumstances.