Dying of cancer, this Green Beret has one last mission: Getting Congress to fight for military medical malpractice reform

"You think you're limited on time? You ought to talk to me about limited time."

Analysis

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal is dying.

The 38-year-old Green Beret's cancer was missed by Army care providers in 2017, and is now terminal. For the last year he's been fighting to change a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, which bars Stayskal and his family from suing the government for the alleged medical malpractice.

That's why, on Sept. 9 and 10, instead of being home in Pinehurst, North Carolina, with his wife and two daughters, Stayskal was in Washington, D.C. trying to drum up support for his namesake legislation, the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, which would allow service members to sue the government for certain medical malpractice incidents.

Over two days, Stayskal and his attorney, Natalie Khawam, visited the offices of eight senators — Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

They had face time with none of them.

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On Tuesday Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow service members to sue the government for military medical malpractice.

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On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.

A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.

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For going on 17 years, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal has served, fought, and bled for his country; first as a Marine infantryman, when he survived a gunshot wound to the chest during a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004; and then as a U.S. Army Green Beret, deploying overseas multiple times.

Now, he's fighting a battle against terminal lung cancer that his military care providers failed to catch, and in the process, Stayskal is taking on a 69-year-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine which bars service members and their families from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.

On April 30, Stayskal was one of three victims of military medical malpractice to testify before Congress on the Supreme Court precedent that bars them from having their day in court.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army Capt. (Dr.) Gregory Giles, ophthalmology resident, preps a patient for cataract surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 29, 2019. Cataracts, which cause clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, are the leading cause of treatable blindness. (U.S. Army photo by Jason W. Edwards)

Lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday that would allow service members and their families to sue the government, in certain cases, when a member of the military is a victim of military medical malpractice. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) the chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and includes co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

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Richard Stayskal and his wife Megan traveled to the nation's capital to testify on the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 legal rule that bars service members from suing the government for negligence and wrongdoing. (Task & Purpose/James Clark)

Members of Congress on Tuesday heard directly from victims of military medical malpractice who are barred from suing the government due to a decades-old Supreme Court precedent known as the Feres Doctrine.

The list of witnesses included service members, veterans, Gold Star family members, and legal experts who offered emotional testimony during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on how the legal rule has barred military victims of medical malpractice from legal recourse.

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