CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A North Carolina Green Beret with stage 4 terminal lung cancer, whose military medical malpractice story, first reported by FOX 46, says he is “excited” that the change he began advocating for more than a year ago, could become law as early as next week.
“It’s finally starting to sink in,” said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal. “So, I’m feeling pretty good. A lot more smiles coming my way. I’m just excited to share it with everybody. I’ve been longing for this day for so long, really not for myself, but for all the ones who are long before me.”
In between cancer treatments, Stayskal, from Pinehurst, N.C., has lobbied lawmakers to allow active duty soldiers the right to sue the government for negligent medical care. A compromise agreement between the House and Senate, included in the National Defense Authorization Act, will allocate $400 million over the next decade to the Department of Defense to investigate and settle claims internally. A 1950 Supreme Court ruling, known as the Feres Doctrine, prevents soldiers from suing the government for malpractice, which doesn't change under the agreement.
Stayskal and his attorney are calling it a major victory.
“Sometimes good things come out of terrible things,” said Stayskal. “And this is one of them.”
FOX 46 was there as Stayskal returned to Capitol Hill, 14 months after we first met the Purple Heart recipient and a day after the House overwhelmingly passed the NDAA.
“All the hard work you, yourself, has put in and taking the time to hear our story,” said Stayskal, crediting FOX 46, “without people like you are who are dedicated to hearing my story, this wouldn’t be possible.”
“This is landmark legislation,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord). “Typically, in Washington, it takes a decade to get something like this done.”
Our year-long series of investigations into military medical malpractice and negligence started with Stayskal. In 2017, doctors at Womack Army Medical Center misdiagnosed his lung cancer as pneumonia.
‘Definitely in a little bit of pain for the new treatment,” said Stayskal, who says his cancer treatment appears to be working.
His wife, Megan, says the pending new law and change her husband created is “surreal.”
“Surreal that it’s finally here,” she said. “It feels like a long journey.”
She says their two daughters are excited to have their dad back home full-time once the NDAA is signed into law.
“I’m like, ‘By the time you have kids this might be in the history books that get taught in school,’” she said.
Stayskal met with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who called the measure a “Christmas miracle,” and Hudson on Thursday to thank them. During the meeting, Hudson turned to FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant to note the role his coverage played in getting results.
“I’ll tell you the media, this guy was relentless,” Hudson said referencing Grant. “The media attention…was instrumental. We couldn’t have done this without the media driving this. We never would have succeeded.”
“Nobody was as dogged as Matt Grant who was there every step of the way,” said Hudson. “I think it’s a real service to our community to know we’ve got a journalist who’s willing to seek justice and not let go of a story.”
Stayskal’s attorney also credited FOX 46 as having “everything” to do with the impending new law.
“This is monumental,” said Khawam. “And you are part of the history of this whole case.”