'Blatant act of betrayal.' Fort Bragg soldier medical malpractice claim denied by Dept. of Defense

Diane Wilson Image
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Fort Bragg soldier medical malpractice claim denied
Master Sgt. Richard Stayskal is speaking out after the Department of Defense denied him compensation even though military doctors missed a lung cancer diagnosis.

"I was just devastated. I was just hurt."

A major blow to a Fort Bragg soldier who fought for change for all service members. Master Sgt. Richard Stayskal is speaking out after the Department of Defense denied him compensation even though military doctors missed a lung cancer diagnosis.

"The denial of my case by the Department of Defense is a blatant act of betrayal not only to myself but to every service member out there."

This is an investigation ABC11 Troubleshooter Diane Wilson has been following for years. In 2018, Stayskal shared his fight after military doctors missed a lung cancer diagnosis.

ABC11 has continued to follow the Fort Bragg soldier's fight to change the Feres Doctrine, which prevents active duty military from medical malpractice claims. In 2019, he won his fight after lawmakers passed the Stayskal Act, which authorized millions of dollars for the Department of Defense to pay out medical malpractice claims. The Purple Heart recipient was the first to file a claim with the DOD.

Now three years later, the denial in his case is not the outcome he was hoping for. "I was just devastated. I was just hurt," Stayskal said.

In the denial letter, it states while the Army admits the standard of care was not met, they found no causation. Stayskal adds, "Basically they're saying there's no causation, that whether they told me day one or six months later played no difference in the diagnosis and treatment that I would have been treated exactly the same. How do you breach the standard of care and everything else, but yet you don't have causation at the same time? It just doesn't seem to fit."

Stayskal's case is not the only one denied. According to Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Hewitt, this is the latest data when it comes to Army active duty medical malpractice claims. 202 cases have been filed requesting $1.75 Billion. 155 cases have been acted upon, and of those 155 cases, 144 cases have been denied.

North Carolina US Representative Richard Hudson who supported the Stayskal Act says he's disgusted by the number of denied claims.

"If DOD doesn't fix this, they are not going to like the solution I'm going to recommend. We are going to fix this. We are going to take it out of their hands if they show they can't handle it. We're not playing games," Hudson said.

When it comes to Stayskal's case, a senior army official provided this statement: "Claims may be denied if they don't meet all the requirements of general Tort and Negligence law. A medical error alone is insufficient. For a claim to be payable, applying the general principles of tort law in a majority of jurisdictions in the United States (the legal standard imposed under the Military Claims Act), four elements are required: duty, breach of duty (medical standard of care not met), causation and damages. In other words, the Army must have failed to meet the medical standard of care, AND that failure must have caused additional harm to the individual by adversely affecting that individual's prognosis and treatment.

The Army recognizes the ordeal Master Sgt. Stayskal and his family are going through. We will continue to ensure that he receives the best possible medical care and that he continues on active-duty service as he requested. The Secretary of the Army is committed to taking care of Soldiers."

Stayskal's attorney says she plans to appeal his case. When it comes to Stayskal's health as he battles stage four lung cancer, he says he continues with treatment and will continue to fight not only for his case but others. He adds, "I stand here today on behalf of an entire generation and behalf of future generations to ensure what happened to me will never happen again and I will give every breathe I have for them."

Master Sgt. Richard Stayskal

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