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DoD denies claim for soldier who changed military malpractice law


Then-Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal, left, with his wife, Megan, and Rep. Richard Hudson. (Photo courtesy of Rich Stayskal)

The Department of Defense denied a medical malpractice claim from Master Sgt. Richard Stayskal, the soldier whose name is attached to legislation that allows service members to file such claims against the Pentagon.

“The denial of my claim by the Department of Defense, in my opinion, is a blatant act of betrayal, not only to myself, but every service member out there,” Stayskal said Wednesday at a press conference in Washington.

Stayskal, a Purple Heart recipient, received an advanced lung cancer diagnosis in June 2017 after being misdiagnosed by Army doctors at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Lawmakers and advocates joined the 41-year-old Green Beret outside the Capitol building Wednesday, calling out the Pentagon for what they say is still a problematic claims process.

“When our men and women in uniform make the brave decision to serve our country, they should know that we will take care of them and have their backs,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said, according to a press release.

Of the 155 medical malpractice claims that have been processed by the Army, 144 have been denied, the release added.

Following his diagnosis, Stayskal lobbied Congress to reform a decades-old precedent known as the Feres Doctrine, which originated following a 1950 Supreme Court decision that keeps troops from suing the government for injury or harm sustained as a result of military service.

Legislation that bears Stayskal’s name was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. It allows service members to now file suit against DoD for instances of harm or negligence in the military medical system.

A U.S. soldier walks next to armored vehicles on a dirt road in Afghanistan.

Stayskal reportedly plans to appeal the decision. He told the Washington Post the Army Claims Service notified him earlier this month that Army Secretary Christine Wormuth intended to use a “special discretionary funding authority” to pay him $600,000, the maximum amount allowed for pain and suffering damages in the military’s medical malpractice system.

That amount is far less than the separate $20 million claims sought by Stayskal and his wife, whose claim also got denied, the Post reported.

“The fox is guarding the hen house,” said Mullin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “and changes must be made.”

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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