Fort Bragg soldier meets with Vice President Pence about his fight to change Feres Doctrine

Diane Wilson Image
Thursday, May 23, 2019
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It was a big moment for Sfc. Richard Stayskal.

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- It was a big moment for Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal. The Fort Bragg Green Beret soldier met with Vice President Mike Pence in Greensboro on Tuesday during Pence's visit to North Carolina.

Stayskal met with Pence and told him about his fight to change the Feres Doctrine, a doctrine which prevents active duty military from suing the government for negligence.

Stayskal said Pence listened to his concerns with the Feres Doctrine and said he was interested in getting to the bottom of it.

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?"

He has gotten 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. Richard Hudson, the Republican congressman who represents areas around Fort Bragg, also supports the Stayskal Act. Hudson was one of the first members to meet with Stayskal and Hudson helped write the bill and was a driving force in getting the legislation introduced.

"Representing the men and women stationed at Fort Bragg and their families is one of the greatest honors of my life," said Rep. Hudson. "My priority is doing right by my constituent Rich and making sure our service members and their families receive the support and top-notch health care they were promised. I admire Rich and the Stayskal family's courage to advocate for these changes."

Hudson was on Air Force Two with Pence as he arrived into Greensboro yesterday and arranged the meeting between Pence and Stayskal.

Stayskal said it was an amazing experience to meet with Pence and for him to hear his fight.

On June 12, there is a march planned in Washington, D.C. in support of amending the Feres Doctrine. The march will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th and 14th streets NW. The march will end with a rally on the National Mall.

Stayskal is represented by attorney Natalie Khawam with the Whistleblower Law Firm.

She said she hopes there is a large turnout for the march.

"We all need to stand up together and ask Congress to support our Troops by passing the Sfc. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019," Khawam added.