DOD issues rule on act named after Fort Bragg soldier that will pay claims of medical malpractice

WASHINGTON (WTVD) -- There was a breakthrough Thursday in a Troubleshooter investigation involving a Fort Bragg soldier's fight to give service members the right to seek compensation for medical malpractice.

On Thursday, the Department of Defense published a rule on how it will process claims under the Stayskal Act. It's a big win for Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal, along with service members and their families as they will now have guidance on how claims of medical malpractice by military doctors will move forward.

ABC11 first told you about Stayskal's fight in 2018. The Purple Heart recipient is stationed at Fort Bragg and lives in Pinehurst with his wife 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. Stayskal was unable to sue for military medical malpractice because of the Feres Doctrine, which prevents the active-duty military from suing.

Since 2018, Stayskal, along with the help of his attorney Natalie Khawam, took their fight to lawmakers in Washington DC, and thanks to bi-partisan support including North Carolina Representative Richard Hudson (R) and California Representative Jackie Spier (D-CA), the Stayskal Act passed in December of 2019.

Since the Stayskal Act become law, Stayskal, along with his team and other service members and their families who filed claims under the Act has been waiting for the Department of Defense to issue a rule on the Act.

On Thursday, the DOD issued published that rule.

"It's a great day for the military and for the service members to finally be able to be made whole through unfortunate situations, and hope is just one small step that will continue to grow into more rights, more deserving respect to the military," Stayskal said.

His attorney Natalie Khwam, who has been instrumental in helping to get the Stayskal Act passed, said: "We want to celebrate a great day in history for our military, our service members, and we will continue to fight for all of you, you fight for our country, we're going to continue fighting for you. This is a proud day in American history."

"There is no way to fix the wrong that happened. But I hope it's a little bit of a lifting of a burden for these families and individuals who are facing a terminal diagnosis and facing questions of, 'How will my wife and children survive once I'm gone?' This hopefully brings some peace of mind to those tragic stories," said Representative Richard Hudson, who first met Stayskal back in 2018 and began to advocate for passage of a law.

As for when Stayskal will see compensation from his claim filed, we know the DOD has $400 million to pay in claims, but it does not know exactly when Stayskal's claim, or the others, will be paid. Rep. Hudson says has been made aware that the DOD was working on having claims processed and ready to be paid as soon as the rule was finalized.

Stayskal said it's days like this that help him get through the tough times of battling stage four lung cancer. He says he's still going through treatment and making the best of his situation with his family.
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