Rich Stayskal took a bullet while fighting in Iraq, serving his country.
His next battle, for his brothers and sisters in the military, is now playing out on Capitol Hill.
Stayskal, a Green Beret, told members of the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel, a law, known as the Feres Doctrine, protecting military doctors from malpractice lawsuits must be changed.
“The doctrine has been utilized by branches of the military to shield negligent medical care given by military providers,” Stayskal told members of Congress.
Stayskal served in the Marines when he was wounded during the battle of Ramadi in 2006.
When his enlistment was up, he joined the Army.
He was dismayed to learn Army doctors discovered a spot on his lung in 2017 and failed to inform him.
“It’s spread to lymph nodes, my neck, my liver, my spine,” Stayskal stated.
Now as he struggles with stage 4 lung cancer, he is soliciting support in Congress to reform the Feres Doctrine.
“Our troops should not be treated any less than we are as civilians,” Stayskal’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, said.
Khawam authored legislation to allow active duty service members to sue military doctors for malpractice.
8 On Your Side profiled Stayskal’s story in February and brought it to the attention of Congressman Charlie Crist (D)-Florida.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D) California, invited Stayskal last month to go to Washington to speak before the House Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, which she chairs.
Both Speier and Crist announced they will introduce legislation to change the law to allow active military to sue for malpractice.
“Congress needs to fight for these people,” Rep. Crist said.
“It’s our duty and obligation to stand up for those who have been wronged, especially for this in the military who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us.”
As Stayskal read a prepared statement to Congressional members, his voice cracked as he became emotional while mentioning his family.
“My children are definitely the true victims, along with my wife,” he said.
“The hardest thing I have to do is explain to my children when they asked me if this doesn’t make sense, how is this happening and I have no good answer to give them.”
“It’s not fair that it was missed, and he wasn’t told, and there’s a possibility our kids will grow up without a father,” Stayskal’s wife Megan tearfully stated.
The Stayskals, as well as other victims of malpractice in the military who testified before Congress, contend active duty service members should be allowed to hold those responsible accountable.
Protection under the Feres Doctrine, they argue, has gone on long enough.
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