WASHINGTON D.C. – An Army Green Beret says he wants justice after finding out he can’t sue his military doctor even after he says that doctor failed to tell him he had lung cancer.
Sergeant 1st Class Rich Stayskal says anyone else in America can sue for medical malpractice, so why don’t service members have the same right?
“It’s discouraging, you know to know that I’m not being treated fairly and not the same as everybody else,” Stayskal said.
In 2017, he says Department of Defense doctors failed to tell him about his cancer when it was found. But under current law, known as the Feres Doctrine, active-duty members can’t sue the DOD.
Stayskal and his attorney Natalie Khawam want an exemption created for people like him.
“This will give them the right, as we all have rights, to sue for, to have legal recourse to be made whole,” Khawam said.
But some opponents say there’s already a way to do that.
The heritage foundation’s Cully Stimson, a former military prosecutor, says the existing federal tort claims act already pays for complaints like Stayskal’s.
“We already have a system in place, a fair system in place, that compensates people,” Stimson said.
Stimson worries if an exemption happens, then doctor’s won’t want to work for the DOD and litigation, putting taxpayers on the hook would skyrocket.
“This will cost a lot of money.”
Members of Congress aren’t buying what Stimson is selling.
They claim for nearly 70 years, servicemembers have been been unable to sue military medical providers after being misdiagnosed, mistreated or subjected to botched surgeries.
In late April, Sgt. Stayskal, along with other veterans, was asked to tell his story about how military malpractice resulted in a death sentence, to the House Armed Services Committee.
Representatives Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) along with Jackie Speier (D-CA), Richard Hudson (R-NC) Jamie Raskin (D-MD) , Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Greg Steube (R-FL) introduced the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, which would allow military serivcemembers to sue the Department of Defense for instances of medical malpractice unrelated to their military duties.
By creating an exemption to the Federal Tort Claims Act servicemembers will be able to sue the military for medical malpractice.
The House included the proposed law change in the National Defense Appropriations Act.
It will now be debated in the Senate.
Khawan reiterates that active-duty members are barred from suing under the Federal Tort Claims Act. She says the exemption they’re seeking would amend the FTCA to include malpractice by military doctors.
“I want to listen to him and see how I can be helpful.” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fl) said.
It’s a battle Stayskal never wanted—but one he’s hoping to win for himself and others.