Military medical malpractice: Clock for justice is ticking

U.S.

(NewsNation) —  The clock is ticking, waiting for justice. A Green Beret master sergeant spent the day at the Pentagon pressing for answers he’s been waiting years for, and that he’s running out of time to get.

Purple Heart recipient Richard Stayskal helped overhaul a rule blocking active duty service members from suing the government for medical malpractice in military facilities.

Now, more than two years later, Stayskal is asking why he and hundreds of other servicemen and women reportedly misdiagnosed by military doctors are still waiting for compensation after the money was set aside.

NewsNation’s Kellie Meyer asked, too: Does the Pentagon have a response to his case and the hundreds of others who are waiting for their repayments? And why is it taking so long to happen?

“All I can tell you without getting into the specifics of this case is we do take that seriously. We follow the law. We treat every claim seriously and as judiciously as we can,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby replied.

The Pentagon’s defense? There is a process that has to be followed.

“Nothing’s more important to the Secretary than the health and well-being of our people and their families, and that’s a sacred obligation. But we have to follow the law,” Kirby said.

NewsNation pressed again, asking if there is any possible way to expedite the process since some people are running out of time. Stayskal, for instance, has terminal Stage IV lung cancer — a diagnosis his doctors initially missed.

“It’s governed by law and very strict, as you would expect it would be, procedure that has to be followed so that claims can be treated impartially and fairly,” Kirby said.

In 2019, Stayskal helped push through a bill, going against a 1950 Supreme Court decision, to make sure service members could get this compensation. Even testifying before Congress: “It’s a mistake that allowed an aggressive tumor to double in size that robbed my life and the life of my family.”

He won the battle and thought his fight for justice was over.

“I thought the politics was over. You know, I thought that was the hardest part —was, like, Congress agreed. They said it’s a worthwhile law. We’re going to put it in place and we’re going to abide by it from here on out,” Stayskal said.

In 2019, the Richard Stayskal Military Accountability Act passed Congress. It authorized $400 million over the next decade for the Department of Defense to pay out military malpractice claims such as Stayskal’s.

Two years later, the delay continues.

“He’s stage four terminal. Everyone knows what that means. Time is not on your side. Yet, the process has been so painfully slow,” Stayskal’s attorney Natalie Khawam said.

“They’re just waiting for them to die off and it’s wrong. I’m here to just say it’s not going to happen anymore,” she continued.

Stayskal says his meeting with the Secretary of Army went well. It was a great, open conversation. But as far as getting a final answer for himself and so many others waiting for that compensation, it’s just going to take time and that’s something that these veterans just don’t have.

The Pentagon issued the following statement in response to NewsNation:

“There is no “typical” or “normal” processing time for a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice claims often involve the review of voluminous medical records and other evidence, as well as interviews of medical providers, claimants, witnesses, and expert medical consultants. The time taken to process any claim depends upon the complexity of the facts. The Army is in regular communication with MSG Stayskal’s counsel as it continues to work the claim to completion.”

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