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.
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.
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.
Task & Purpose photo illustration by Aaron Provost/Photo courtesy of Richard Stayskal/Wikimedia Commons
An online petition calling on Congress to change the Feres Doctrine, a 68-year-old legal rule that bars service members and their families from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing, has reached more than 17,000 signatures.
Task & Purpose photo illustration by Aaron Provost/Wikimedia Commons/Richard Stayskal
Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal felt like he was falling apart.
A physically fit Green Beret, Stayskal first noticed something wrong with his body in March 2017 while training at the Army's Special Forces Dive School in Key West, Florida. Unable to keep up with his elite training — a red flag for the athletic 37-year-old combat veteran — he was sent home to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
By April, Stayskal began to wheeze and had difficulty breathing when lying on his back; other times, his body would go numb, and his vision blurry. In May, he visited the emergency room twice, once on base at Womack Army Medical Center and a week later out in town. Then, in early June, he began coughing up blood — a teaspoon at first, but it was more by the day.