BY AARON FRISHBERG
When Congress passed, and the president signed, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020, a bill was included known as the SFC Richard Stayskal Medical Accountability Act. Sergeant Stayskal, for whom the Act was named, was diagnosed with pneumonia when the correct diagnosis would have been cancer. Today, Sergeant Stayskal suffers from a stage four cancer.
His attorneys, the Whistleblower Law Firm based in Florida, were trying to have Congress legislatively overturn the Feres doctrine, a court decision which held that the U.S. military is immunized from lawsuits by service members. What it came away with was a much smaller half a loaf – an administrative process under which claims of medical malpractice are evaluated. In 2020, the claims can be based on events from 2017 forward. From 2021 on, there will be a two-year statute of limitations. The claims can only succeed if they are based on medical malpractice committed by a military physician in a military hospital or clinic.
This abrogation of a small part of Feres was first reported by Patricia Kimes in Military Times. Kimes reports that the service branches have not yet adopted procedures for processing claims, but that Congress mandated them to promulgate regulations and report back to Congress. In the meantime, claims can be filed for the various service branches as follows:
Army: Claims should be presented to the nearest office of the Staff Judge Advocate, to the Center Judge Advocate of the Medical Center in question, or with U.S. Army Claims Service, 3322 Llewellyn Avenue, Fort Meade, Maryland, 20755, ATTN: Tort Claims Division.
Navy and Marine Corps: directions and forms for filing a claim may be found at https:/www.jag.navt.mil/. Claims should be mailed to the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Tort Claims Unit, 9620 Maryland Avenue, Suite 205, Norfolk, Virginia 23511-2949.
Air Force: Claims should be presented either at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at the nearest Air Force Base, or sent by mail to AFLOA/JACC, 1500 W. Perimeter Road, Suite 1700, Joint Base Andrews, MD 20762. POC: Medical Law Branch, AFLOA /JACC 240-612- 4620 or DSN 612-4620.