Fort Bragg soldier still waiting for compensation for missed cancer diagnosis 2 years after new law

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Fort Bragg soldier and his family continue to wait for closure on a battle they won two years ago. Two years ago this month, Master Sgt. Richard Stayskal was in Washington D.C. when a law named after him passed that gave service members the right to compensation for medical malpractice while in the military.

Stayskal and other soldiers have not seen a dime from the government on their claims.

"I'm just kind of at a loss for words at this point," he said. "Especially when there's no answer or reason as to why that's the worst part because it's just like you know you can't even just give us a simple reason as to why."

The Department of Defense is deciding his case when it comes to compensation after military doctors missed a lung cancer diagnosis.

Since 2018, ABC11 has been following Stayskal's fight to change the Feres doctrine, which prevented active duty military from medical malpractice claims. With the help of lawmakers, and his attorney, the Stayskal Act changed that law. The bill authorized $400 million over the next decade for the Department of Defense to pay out claims like Stayskal's.

"People are waiting, they are anxious, we fought really hard for this, and it would mean a lot," Stayskal said. "We are just asking them to put themselves in our shoes and if they were in our shoes, I promise you, they would want the same respect and effort behind it."

Stayskal's attorney Natalie Khawam said she's in constant contact with the Department of Defense, but out of the one hundred cases she's filed under the Stayskal Act, she says not one has been paid.

"A lot of these victims they don't have time on their side. They don't have the luxury of being able to wait to negotiate for payment, they need closure their families need closure so it's very frustrating, not just for me and not just for the victims, but for the families," Khawam said.

Stayskal's wife Megan is by his side the entire fight. The couple along with their two daughters continue to make the most of the time left while Stayskal battles terminal lung cancer. One recent highlight--Richard and Megan celebrated their 15-year wedding vow renewal on the beach.

With 20 years in the military this summer, Stayskal is planning to retire. He along with his wife hope by then there is closure to his case with a decision from the Department of Defense.

"Being able to finally close the door to a chapter in our life and move on or hopefully at least try to move on with our family, as you know," Megan Stayskal said. "Rich fought really hard along with Natalie. He chose not to just stay at home when we found out he was sick and chose to go fight for not only him our family, but others that were in the same boat. I think for him to be able to just know that it's been done, it's over with they've settled his case and he can start planning out the next thing that he wants to attack or accomplish."

As for Stayskal's battle with lung cancer, he continues to seek treatment and said he is hanging in there.

A representative with the Department of Defense provided this statement:

"The interim final rule allowing certain medical malpractice claims by Service members was published in the Federal Register on June 17, 2021, and became effective July 19, 2021. The Military Departments are currently adjudicating claims that have been filed since January 1, 2020, including issuing decisions on claims."
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