NC lawmaker Hudson continues fight to help Fort Bragg soldier battling cancer

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- There are new details into a Troubleshooter investigation involving a Fort Bragg Green Beret fighting for change that would affect all active duty military members.

Lawmakers at the nation's capital continue to try to push to get a bill passed named after Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal that would give active duty military the right to sue for medical malpractice. Right now, the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court decision, prevents active duty service members from suing the military for negligence.

On Wednesday, a big boost happened in the House involving the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019. The proposed bill is now included in the House draft of the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2020. Congresswoman Jackie Speier's (CA-14), who sponsored the bill said, "Our service members deserve the right to sue the government when negligent medical care results in their injuries or deaths. This victory is due in large part to the commitment, passion, and advocacy of Sgt. 1st Class Stayskal, who responded to the botched diagnosis as a true hero by continuing to serve with his fellow soldiers and fighting for legislation to ease this unimaginable burden for his wife and two young daughters as well as all those who come after him."

A copy of the amendment text can be found here.

Rep. Richard Hudson, the NC Republican congressman who represents areas around Fort Bragg, cosponsored the bill and was one of the first lawmakers to meet with Stayskal to hear his story.

"It's such a heartbreaking story," Hudson said. "Here is a hero that deployed multiple times, came home safely, and now the end of his story is going to be a medical malpractice mistake is contributing to his early death. It's a horrific story that really touched me and made me mad."

We first told you about Stayskal's fight last year. The Purple Heart recipient is stationed at Fort Bragg and lives in Pinehurst with his wife, Megan, and two daughters. He has stage four lung cancer.

It's a cancer diagnosis that he said should have been caught earlier but was missed by military doctors at Womack Army Medical Center during a routine physical in January 2017. After that physical, Stayskal's health declined, and it wasn't until he saw a civilian specialist off base where he was given the grim diagnosis.

"This life-changing news -- that could have been addressed six months earlier while cancer was still contained to one area of my lung -- is inexcusable," Stayskal said that after learning of the misdiagnosis. His mission now is to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.

"It's not just about the money here, it's about getting rid of the practitioners who can't do their job or won't do their jobs," Stayskal said. "Fix how this mistaken doctrine is used to strip hundreds of service members, like myself, and their families, of the same rights that the rest of the citizens of our country have when it comes to medical malpractice."

Stayskal's fight has taken him to Washington, DC. He testified before the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing called "Feres Doctrine -- a Policy in Need of Reform?" Stayskal's testimony got the attention of lawmakers -- a bill is on the table to change the Feres Doctrine, and it's named after him.

The Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 was introduced in May. It is legislation that, if passed, would allow service members and their families to sue the government (in some instances) when a member of the military is a victim of medical malpractice.

Rep. Hudson helped write the bill and was a driving force in getting the legislation introduced.

"When you have a non-combat, non-training medical malpractice incident then our soldiers ought to have the same civil right as every other American, they ought to be able to seek recompense," Hudson said.

Hudson said he knows it could be a long road to get the Stayskal Act approved.

"No matter how long it takes we are going to restore the civil rights to our soldiers and families. I'm not going to stop until we do," Hudson said.

Hudson helped Stayskal meet Vice President Mike Pence and share his fight with him. Plus, Stayskal's fight got a significant boost in the Senate as a senator proposed an amendment to a proposed defense policy bill, which would give soldiers the right to sue for medical malpractice in non-combat situations.
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