(HEALTHCAST)—Richard Stayskal, an Army officer, is fighting stage 4 terminal lung cancer, and he’s here in Washington waging a second fight for his rights and those of his fellow troopers.
“It’s discouraging, you know to know that I’m not being treated fairly and not the same as everybody else,” Army Officer Stayskal said.
In 2017, Stayskal said the Department of Defense doctors failed to tell him about his cancer when it was found.
But under current law, known as the Feres doctrine, active-duty members can’t sue the dod.
Stayskal and his attorney Natalie Khawam want an exemption created for people like him.
“This will give them the right, as we all have rights, to sue for, to have legal recourse to be made whole,” Khawam said.
But some opponents said there’s already a way to do that.
“This is bad policy, it’s not necessary,” Heritage Foundation Cully Stimson said.
The Heritage Foundation’s Cully Stimson, a former military prosecutor, said the existing Federal Tort Claims Act already pays for complaints like Stayskal’s.
“We already have a system in place, a fair system in place, that compensates people,” Stimson said.
Stimson worries if an exemption happens, then doctor’s won’t want to work for the dod and litigation, and putting taxpayers on the hook would skyrocket.
“This will cost a lot of money.”
But Khawan disagrees, reiterating that active-duty members are barred from suing under the federal tort claims act.
Khawan said the exemption they’re seeking would amend the FTCA to include malpractice by military doctors.
“My hopes for this trip is to just keep meeting with the senators, keep giving them awareness,” Stayskal said.
“I want to listen to him and see how I can be helpful,” Senator Rick Scott said.
It’s a battle Stayskal never wanted, but one he’s hoping to win for himself and others.
When Stayskal was diagnosed, he was given maybe a year to live. Now, he said, he’s stabilized with the help of chemotherapy pills and other medications. Doctors have not given him a timeline, though.
Amid the whirlwind of legal procedures and medical treatment plans, he remains steadfast in trying to be the best husband and father he can be, for as long as he can.