Army nurse fights for right to sue after set on fire, stabbed at work

WASHINGTON (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) -- They fight for our freedom but when something goes wrong our soldiers are often left to fight for themselves, a series of FOX 46 investigations uncovered.

"I volunteered to be in the military," said Capt. Katie Blanchard, an Army nurse. "I didn't volunteer to be attacked and almost murdered in my office."

Blanchard still carries the scars - emotional and physical - from the day she was almost murdered.

"I knew that he was going to kill me," she recalled. "I knew this was the end."

On Sept. 7, 2016, she was doused in gasoline, set on fire and stabbed at her job at the Munson Army Health Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kanas. Her attacker was her co-worker, who had a history of behavior problems.

"I remember as my attacker sat there smiling at me as I'm covered in blood," she said. "I didn't think I was going to make it."

Eighteen percent of her body was severely burned. She spent more than two months in the hospital and says she endured hundreds of surgeries.

"The pain was so bad," she said, "I tried not to breathe or move."

Blanchard says her attack should have been prevented. 

"I just started screaming, 'You knew this was going to happen. You knew this was going to happen to me,'" she recalled.

RELATED: A dying soldier can't sue the government for medical malpractice, but an inmate can

An internal investigation found Blanchard told officials she thought something "bad" was going to happen a month before her attack and felt like her attacker "may hurt her." 

"I said, 'This man is going to kill me. He is going to bring a gun to work and kill me,'" said Blanchard. "The supervisor looked at me, with tears in my eyes, and said, 'Come to me with facts not emotions.'"

The Army's report blamed leadership for failing to take action and allowing "unsafe conditions in the workplace." Despite that indictment, a FOX 46 investigation found Blanchard, like other active duty service members, are unable to sue the government because of a 1950 Supreme Court decision called the Feres Doctrine.

That Feres Doctrine grants the government immunity for injuries "incident to military service." 

"This Feres Doctrine is being misapplied and overly, broadly applied," said Blanchard's attorney, Natalie Khawam with the Whistleblower Law Firm, "to cases that have nothing to do with service-related, or combat-related injuries."

Blanchard's attacker was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution. Blanchard says she has received less than $20,000 of that. FOX 46 was there when Blanchard told her story to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

She was at Tuesday's Feres Doctrine hearing and supports a new bill that would end the controversial court ruling. 

"It's not right. It's not just," she said. "Why should [soldiers] have less rights than prisoners?"

Blanchard wants the ability to sue the military to recoup the money she says she would have earned over the course of her lifetime if she wasn't forced to retire, disabled, at 28 years old. 

She now plans to go back to school and dedicate her life to preventing workplace violence. 

"Try to empower people to stand up and start working towards a healthier work environment," she said. 

FOX 46 reached out to Munson Army Health Center, but officials there declined to comment.