FOX 46 CHARLOTTE – A bill that would give soldiers the right to be compensated for military medical malpractice is one step closer to becoming law.
An agreement has been reached to include the Sgt 1st Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, which was introduced following a series of FOX 46 investigations, included in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Stayskal’s attorney, Natalie Khawam.
“Thank you for covering the best news we received!,” Khawam’s Whistleblower Law Firm tweeted Monday afternoon, after FOX 46 broke the story on Twitter. “We have changed history and our military will finally have the rights they deserve.”
Khawam tells FOX 46 she was informed that the bill, named after a terminally ill Green Beret from Pinehurst, N.C., is set to be included in the final version of the NDAA, which President Trump is expected to sign into law before Christmas.
“You can either sit there and be sad and depressed all the time or find a way around it and fix it. So, simply, that’s what I’m trying to do,” Stayskal said, while receiving cancer treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.
The final NDAA, which includes funding for military pay and health care, has not been publicly released yet. Details of the historic bipartisan compromise and how it was reached, given fierce opposition from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), are unknown.
“Well, there are a lot of issues that do transcend partisan politics, and supporting our troops is one of them,” Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) told FOX 46 back in May.
FOX 46 reached out to the Department of Defense and lawmakers on Capitol Hill but no one is publicly commenting yet.
Khawam previously credited a year-long series of FOX 46 investigations for getting results.
“It had all the impact,” said Khawam. “It was the nucleus to this whole bill.”
It’s been a little over a year since FOX 46 first investigated how doctors at Womack Army Medical Center misdiagnosed Stayskal’s lung cancer for pneumonia. In April, he testified before Congress.
“The hardest thing I have to do is explain to my children, when they ask me, ‘This doesn’t make sense, how is this happening?,’ and I have no good answer to give them,” Stayskal testified.
If the bill passes, as originally written, it would change federal law and alter a nearly 70-year-old Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres Doctrine, which prevents active-duty soldiers from suing the government for medical malpractice.
“This is the kind of injustice that had to be fixed,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who introduced the Stayskal bill in the House, told FOX 46 in July. “This is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation that I’ve had the chance to participate in since I’ve been in Congress.”
The news comes on the same day that the Tampa Bay Lightning plan to honor Stayskal at a ceremony at its home game. The team will salute Stayskal, who will be joined by his family, for all that he’s done, and continues to do, for our country.
“The Lightning are proud to recognize Sgt. 1st Class Stayskal during tonight’s Hockey Fights Cancer game,” a team spokesman said. “We wish him the best of luck as he continues his fight against cancer and enemies of the United States.”
The team mentioned Stayskal’s Feres Doctrine fight in its news release highlighting how his bill would “provide more accountable and critical medical care for military members and their families.”
The ceremony is hosted by Moffitt Cancer Center, where Stayskal is receiving treatment.
“To me, there’s not much of another option. It’s just gotta get it done,” Stayskal told FOX 46 two weeks ago about his bill.
“Are you going to keep fighting as long as you can?” asked reporter Matt Grant.
“That’s the plan,” said Stayskal. “I don’t know any other way I guess.”