Last week, the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 was introduced in Washington, D.C.
Named after a Fort Bragg soldier and Pinehurst resident, the legislation, if passed, will allow service members and families to sue when soldiers are victims of medical malpractice.
Originally from San Jose, CA, Rich Stayskal enlisted in the Marines in 2001. In 2004 while serving in Iraq, he was shot by a sniper, a bullet lodged in his lung.
Discharged in 2005, he was awarded a Purple Heart for his service. In 2006, Rich reenlisted in the U.S Army, and to this day, he is still active duty.
He and his wife, Megan, were married in 2006, and they have two daughters, Carly, 10 and Addisyn, 12.
The Stayskals have been living in Pinehurst since 2015. Despite giving the appearance of looking in perfect health, Rich is currently fighting for his life, living with Stage 4 lung cancer.
Contributed photo the Stayskal family.
In January 2017, Rich underwent a routine CT scan performed as part of a required physical necessary before entering dive school in the Army. After his exam, Rich was cleared by a military doctor at Womack Medical Center,located at Fort Bragg, to enter dive school.
Just a few months later, Rich began to experience physical symptoms which included difficulty breathing and coughing up blood. His attempts to seek medical treatment at Womack were not expedited, and at one point, several months after his initial CT scan was done, Rich was told he had pneumonia.
This investigative report, done by Fox46 Charlotte was one of the first articles to highlight Rich’s story.
It wasn’t until June of 2017 that Rich was finally given clearance to see a civilian doctor. After an exam and biopsy, the diagnosis came back for stage 3A lung cancer.
Contributed photo Rich and Megan Stayskal.
According to Rich, six months earlier, the military physician who first gave Rich clearance to enter dive school, did not disclose to the Pinehurst resident a sizable mass on his lung that was visible in the routine CT scan Rich underwent in January 2017.
According to the Stayskals, a mass was noted in his medical record at the time and had grown substantially by the time it was detected by a civilian doctor—six months later.
If Rich were a civilian, seeking legal remedy by filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice would be a normal and customary option to pursue. But since Rich is active duty military, the right to make a claim for compensation has been eliminated.
A little-known legal statute called “The Feres Doctrine,” is proving to be the barrier for justice for Rich Stayskal and his family.
According to the Feres Doctrine, originally passed in 1950, those on active duty are prohibited from suing the government for injuries sustained during military service.
While the intent of the law is to prevent soldiers that were wounded in battle from suing for their injuries—is it a fair and just interpretation of the Feres Doctrine to apply it for Rich’s case of alleged medical malpractice?
Contributed photo of Rich Stayskal.
Rich and his wife have retained legal representation and have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Stayskals against the U.S. government.
Both Rich and Megan indicated they are not seeking to abolish the Feres Doctrine. What they are seeking is a revision or update, which would eliminate what Megan calls, “taking out a lot of the gray areas and making it very black and white.”
Megan used the following example – “That, yes, Feres should apply when you’re in combat, and yes, it applies when you’re in training, but it does not apply when you’re in civilian clothes going to a routine physical.”
Last week, Rich testified in Washington before the House Armed Services Committee explaining the importance of changing the Feres Doctrine.
To read Rich’s testimony, please click here.
The Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 was introduced by Fort Bragg’s Congressman Richard Hudson and six of his colleagues.
After meeting with SFC Stayskal and hearing his story, Rep. Hudson introduced the bipartisan bill with his colleagues Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and Charlie Crist (D-FL).
Representative Richard Hudson(left) and Rich Stayskal(right). Photo courtesy of Rep. Hudson’s office.
The bill would restore the rights of military servicemembers to sue the Department of Defense for instances of extreme medical malpractice unrelated to their military duties.
By creating an exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act to allow servicemembers to sue the military for medical malpractice, the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 would give servicemembers the same right as the fellow citizens they serve to protect. This bill reaffirms the protections under the FTCA to prevent frivolous lawsuits while allowing legitimate claims to proceed.
“Representing the men and women stationed at Fort Bragg and their families is one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Rep. Hudson. “My priority is doing right by my constituent Rich and making sure our service members and their families receive the support and top-notch health care they were promised. I admire Rich and the Stayskal family’s courage to advocate for these changes, and I am proud to introduce this legislation today with a bipartisan group of colleagues.”
~This article was written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Maggie Sergio.