VP Pence meets with dying soldier fighting for right to sue for malpractice

Vice President Mike Pence was "very interested" and wants to "get to the bottom" of the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court ruling preventing active duty soldiers from suing the government from negligence, according to a dying Purple Heart Green Beret from North Carolina, who met with Pence on Wednesday.

When the vice president touched down in Greensboro, Sfc. Richard Stayskal was there waiting.

"At first he just wanted to thank me for my service," said Stayskal.

For the past seven months, FOX 46 has covered Stayskal's fight to allow active duty soldiers the right to sue for medical malpractice - the same right retired veterans, civilians and even prisoners have. Stayskal has stage four terminal lung cancer, which was misdiagnosed as pneumonia in 2017, when it was still treatable, records show.

Under a 1950 Supreme Court decision, called the Feres Doctrine, which the court reaffirmed this week, active duty soldiers are prevented from suing the government for negligence. 

"It's wrong," said Stayskal. "It's just flat out wrong. It's just not right the way it's been."

Last month, Stayskal testified before Congress, alongside other victims of military medical malpractice and negligence. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) helped author a bipartisan bill, named after Stayskal, with Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California, who wanted to get involved after hearing his story

That bill would allow active duty soldiers the right to sue for medical malpractice in situations not related to combat or training.

When Stayskal heard Pence would be in North Carolina, he wanted to share his story with the vice president. FOX 46 called Hudson's office on his behalf and, it turns out, Hudson was on Air Force Two with Pence.

Stayskal was invited to be on the tarmac when they arrived and was then granted a meeting.

Pence, who was with Hudson, met with Stayskal and his wife Megan for several minutes to discuss the Feres Doctrine.

"He was very interested," Stayskal said afterward. "Right off the bat, he looked at Congressman Hudson, immediately, and said, "I want to hear all about this. I want to know what's going on.' Said he 'wants to get to the bottom of it.'"

Stayskal thanked FOX 46 and Hudson for making this meeting happen.

"It was more than I expected," said Stayskal. "It was amazing. It was great to hear him [Pence] talk about it [the Feres Doctrine] that way."

Stayskal says he's using what precious little time and energy he has left for one last fight - to make a difference for his fellow soldiers.

"I can sit at home and feel sad for myself," said Stayskal. "Or, I can see a problem and fix a problem."