A bipartisan bill in Congress that would let soldiers hold bad military doctors accountable has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from a key South Carolina lawmaker.
Sfc. Richard Stayskal continues to fight to give troops the right to sue the government for medical malpractice, which is not allowed under a 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres Doctrine. For one year FOX 46 has reported on Stayskal’s mission as he battles stage four terminal lung cancer – an illness the military mistook for pneumonia.
The Sfc. Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 passed the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It was supported by Republicans and Democrats from across the country.
“This is the kind of injustice that had to be fixed,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who introduced the bill, calling it the “most important” piece of legislation she has ever worked on.
“There are a lot of issues that do transcend partisan politics,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord), whose district includes Fort Bragg. “And supporting the troops is one of them.”
But the bill has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and has refused to take up the bill or even meet with Stayskal.
Last month, FOX 46 caught up with Sen. Graham at the Citadel military college in Charleston, SC.
“Senator, can you talk about your opposition to the Feres Doctrine bill?,” asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant. “And, why do you think soldiers like Richard Stayskal, who have been the victim of extreme medical malpractice, should not be allowed to sue?”
“Yeah, I’ve been a military lawyer for 33 years. The deal is: You sign up for the military, you get disability, you get benefits, your family gets well taken care of and you’re not able to sue,” said Graham. “It’s not just malpractice. You have the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) that’s available to you. But, when pilots fly new planes, we’re not gonna create liability there. I think it’s a trade-off that’s stood the test of time.”