For the past year, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal has been fighting for justice.
While battling terminal stage 4 cancer — which he said stemmed from military doctors failing to tell him about a tumor in his lung — he has also been working with lawmakers to ensure that his family and other members of the military get the compensation they deserve for alleged medical malpractice.
Active-duty members of the military have not been able to make a claim against the government for nearly 70 years under the Feres doctrine, based on a controversial 1950 Supreme Court decision, but this week Stayskal appears to have achieved a victory in his efforts to change that.
“Sgt. Stayskal’s daughters are 11 and 9, so imagine the long term benefits that will accrue now because there will be compensation for his loved ones,” she said.
Stayskal began meeting with members of Congress, including Speier, after a failed attempt to sue the Department of Defense for medical malpractice over claims that doctors failed to tell him about a tumor growing in his lungs.
In January 2017, Stayskal had gone to the military-operated Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg to be medically cleared for a diving course, according to him and his attorney, Natalie Khawam.
Despite doctors noticing a tumor, first in the initial appointment and once again four months later when he was rushed to the ER because of chest pains, they said nothing, Stayskal and Khawam told ABC.
Stayskal, who served for 14 years and was a member of the elite Green Berets, has since been diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer, his lawyer said.
The Department of Defense did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. A spokesperson at Womack said in a statement to ABC News that the medical center could not comment on specifics regarding cases, but “we are required to identify, analyze, appropriately report unanticipated outcomes, and take the requisite corrective actions. This process reduces risk to patients and improves the quality of care.”
“Womack AMC takes seriously its commitment to ensure the highest quality of care as part of the Military Health System, and supports to SFC Stayskal in his ongoing medical treatment,” the statement read.
Khawam said since representing Stayskal, she has heard from numerous other military members claiming to have suffered from similar treatment.
For them, she’s grateful that the legislation made it into the final NDAA.
“I think that everybody deserves a right to have their day in court or be heard and accountability is such an important aspect that everyone’s overlooking for our military,” Khawam told ABC News.
“It’s not a Democratic thing. It’s not a Republican thing,” she added. “It’s an American thing.”