WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law Friday evening and with it a provision that will allow, for the first time, active-duty military to be compensated for negligent military medical care.
The new law marks a major victory, and a landmark achievement, for a North Carolina Green Beret, who spent the last year lobbying lawmakers to hold negligent military doctors accountable.
“It’s a huge relief to know there’s better accountability,” Richard Stayskal said after the NDAA passed the Senate. “That service members are getting what they deserve. I’m hoping everybody’s going to share the joy us right now and the happiness that’s deserved for all the ones that feel left behind or forgotten about over the years.”
Under the new law, Congress will allocate $400 million to the Department of Defense to investigate and payout military medical malpractice claims, opening the door to justice and accountability when service members are victimized by negligent care.
Stayskal watched the president sign the NDAA from a New York hotel. He was joined by his attorney, Natalie Khawam, with his wife, Megan, and two daughters.
“We did it!” said Khawam, hugging Stayskal, and wiping back tears.
Stayskal, a Purple Heart recipient, first shared his story with FOX 46 back in October 2018. Our investigation found doctors at Womack Army Medical Center misdiagnosed his lung cancer as “pneumonia” in January 2017. Records show doctors took another look at his CT scans, recommended a biopsy, but for some reason never told Stayskal.
A civilian doctor later diagnosed him with lung cancer, which is now stage-four terminal. The original misdiagnosis resulted in a six-month delay in treatment which could have prolonged his life. Under a 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres Doctrine, Stayskal is unable to sue the government for malpractice.
Stayskal’s story struck a bipartisan nerve with lawmakers and who took action. Stayskal’s story gained national attention and is now getting results and changing federal law.
The new law, named after Stayskal, doesn’t change the Feres Doctrine but does allow service members to be compensated for medical negligence - a measure of justice previously denied. The law is retroactive to January 2017, when Stayskal’s cancer was originally misdiagnosed.
Stayskal praised the bipartisan support for his fight. He and Khawam credit a yearlong series of FOX 46 investigations for getting results.
“Matt, I always say, this couldn’t have been done without you,” said Khawam. “You brought awareness to the community. You brought awareness across the country. We would never have had the amount of support without your constant journalism.”
Stayskal says he is relieved and grateful that his efforts will help his fellow soldiers.
“I’ve been longing for this day for so long,” Stayskal told FOX 46 on Capitol Hill, a day after the House passed the NDAA.
The new law comes on a day filled with good news for the Stayskal’s. Earlier that morning, he was surprised at Fox & Friends with the gift of a mortgage-free house from the non-profit Operation Finally Home. The organization’s president, Rusty Caroll, asked FOX 46 to help arrange the surprise and said he learned about Staykal from our coverage.
“Thank you so much I appreciate it,” Stayskal said.
Stayskal also announced his cancer treatments at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., appear to be working.
“I’ve been doing a new clinical trial and right now I have ‘no evidence of disease,’” said Stayskal. “But, you know, my diagnosis is still the same.”
He goes back for more treatment the day after Christmas and is scheduled to go for new scans on Jan. 3.
The new law has been called “landmark legislation” and a “Christmas miracle” but for Stayskal it’s a relief – the end result of a year of his life sacrificed, once again, in selfless service to our country.
“When I heard Richard’s case I thought it was really important to do,” said Khawam, who was in tears, on the program. Khawm took on Stayskal’s case, and others challenging the Feres Doctrine, when nobody else would, acting as a fierce advocate for soldiers who have been wronged.
“We are so humbled to experience history being made before our eyes,” said Khawam. “And our Bill, that no one ever thought would happen, became a law today! We had a mission, and today we accomplished it!”
The defense spending bill also provides pay raises to service members, provides paid parental leave, aims to improve military housing and creates a sixth branch of the Armed Services, called the Space Force.
Watch Stayskal receive a new home on FOX & Friends by clicking here.