Imagine fighting for your country and sacrificing your very own safety only to come home to a very broken military medical system. Imagine, that you are misdiagnosed by the same military hospital that was gave you a clean bill of health. That misdiagnosis then leads to terminal cancer and now neither you nor your family has any legal recourse against the same military hospital that put you and your family into that horrible position. This type of scenario happens far more than people believe it does in the United States. The standard of military medical care is subpar for active duty members and Natalie Khawam’s latest case is a prime example of how the system has completely failed the men and women of the military.
Natalie Khawam’s name is very well known amongst veterans and active duty members that have been failed by the very system that was designed to help them. The military medical system is broken and Natalie Khawam is fighting hard to make sure laws and safeguards are put in place in order to ensure that military members are protected from medical negligence. She understands how imperative it is that these individuals who have fought so hard for our country receive the proper benefits.
As an attorney, Ms. Khawam, makes it her duty to help protect the nation’s veterans and active duty members. Her law firm, the Whistleblower Law Firm, employs dedicated team members that have a wide breadth of legal knowledge and the firm focuses on numerous practice areas. Although, as the name suggests, the firm predominately focuses on whistleblower laws, they are in no way limited to that particular practice area. Veterans and active duty members in particular are very important to the firm so Natalie makes it her mission to make sure that their rights are protected.
Unfortunately, the members of the military are having difficulties getting access to proper medical care through the military medical system. Even though there have been numerous reports about the lack of adequate medical care and ineptness of the VA and the military hospitals, there are still a variety of issues. There are so many people and families that have horror stories about dealing with life or death issues and how the military medical system has let them down. Even in the case of outright medical malpractice, there is no legal recourse that veterans can take in this particular event.
According to the Emerald City Journal, a Green Beret from North Carolina and his family are finding themselves in this same horrible position. Sgt. First Class Richard Stayskal is currently facing the worst possible outcome from an inept medical care. He is dying from terminal cancer and because of a misdiagnosis; he has very few medical options left at this point. What is even worse about this situation is that Sfc. Stayskal might have had medical options to help him fight the cancer that is ravaging his body. After his service and his sacrifice, he is dying because of a terrible and preventable mistake. Even though it was huge oversight on the part of military hospital, Sfc. Stayskal and his family have no recourse to sue the military for malpractice.
Thanks to a case from the 1950’s, it became law that a service member could not sue the military for medical malpractice. In 1950 in Feres v. United States, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not be held liable under the FTCA for injuries to members of the armed forces that arise from activities conducted during time served. This established what is now known as the “Feres Doctrine”. The principle behind this doctrine is that members of the military are routinely injured in the course of duty based on the inherent dangerous nature of being an active duty member.
While in theory the law makes sense and should apply to most circumstances and injuries and arise during combat. For example, if medical care is rendered during a combat situation or when emergency care is needed in a training environment, the military and their medical staff make quick decisions. These quick decisions are made under incredibly stressful situations. It makes sense that the military should not be held responsible for treating an injured active duty member during a triage situation that arises during combat or training. The Supreme Court did not want to compromise the ability of military medical staff to treat a wounded warrior.
There are some circumstances however that should be exempt from the Feres Doctrine. When it come to medical malpractice outside of the purview of combat, there should be some exemptions made for soldiers. Medical care at a military hospital, during a non-combat situation should be exempt. Members of the military that face gross negligence should be allowed legal recourse during medical care received during non-combat situations. For some individuals, they have been left with no way to provide for their families after a medical mishap and those responsible should be held accountable.
Sfc. Stayskal almost died in Iraq in 2004 when he was shot by a sniper. After recovering from this horrific incident, he joined the Special Forces. He was selected to attend Special Forces Under Water School and Combat Dive Qualification Course and during the required school physical examination in January of 2017, the civilian radiologist at the Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg failed to identify a large tumor midline his right upper lobe. Due to this gross medical negligence, and other mishaps through the military medical system, Sfc. Stayskal now has months to live.
His story is not unheard of when it comes to dealing with the military medical system. There are thousands of other active duty military members that are suffering at the hands of a broken system and they have no legal recourse. There was a basic right that has been stripped from the nation’s soldiers. The right to sue for medical negligence is a right that everyone should be able to exercise, especially the men and women of the military. They should not be exempt from being able to protect themselves and their families from medical negligence.
Attorney Natalie Khawam and her firm are fighting to help enact critical legislation that will amend this wrong. She wants to help make sure that no solider or their families ever suffer from the same fate at Sfc. Stayskal and his family. Her team will fight hard to help defend the rights of the soldiers just as they have fought and sacrificed for the nation. She firmly believes it is her duty to protect the soldiers and the veterans of the country. She understands how much they sacrifice for the country and their very own families and she wants to make sure that they are safeguarded against medical malpractice. Natalie Khawam is committed to challenging this outdated law so that no man or women has to suffer from this form of injustice ever again.
Natalie Khawam and Veterans’ Rights
Natalie Khawam is a whistleblower law attorney in the Tampa, Florida area. As the founder of the Whistleblower law firm, she doesn’t only tirelessly work to protect the rights of the clients that seek her help – she also works to serve and protect the rights of US veterans, both in work-related matters and volunteer work.
The Whistleblower Law Firm and Veterans’ Benefits
True to Khawam’s dedication to serving veterans, the Whistleblower Law Firm provides veterans’ benefits services. The attorneys help with navigating the difficult phases of the Veterans’ Claim Process, from initial applications to appeals and renewals. For veterans who have claim denials or aren’t receiving appropriate levels of benefits, the assistance of the Whistleblower Law Firm helps resolve these issues, giving veterans the support they deserve for their dedication.
Additionally, Khawam has worked to include a specialized team of VA accredited attorneys among the team members of the Whistleblower Law Firm. She is proud to work with individuals like military officers, a VA Medical Officer, a VA Claims Examiner, and an attorney from the Board of Veterans Appeals to help provide veterans with the expert legal assistance they deserve when seeking help.
Whistleblower Claims for Veterans’ Rights
Khawam’s dedication to veterans’ rights doesn’t just stop at directly supporting them. Khawam also works to defend those who would stand up for veterans. One such instance involved a claim from March 2018, where a social worker at a Bay Area VA facility, Karen Chwick, faced repercussions for noting gaps in veteran patient care at the facility.
Chwick’s concerns originated from the lack of appropriate care for veteran cancer patients. Because the facility itself did not provide radiation treatment, veteran patients would need to go to other services to receive the treatment. While the VA hospital was supposed to help with referrals, there were numerous delays in treatments that, while on average were within the 30 day timeframe permitted by current guidelines, sometime stretched longer than permissible. When she noticed this, Chwick documented the delays and reported them to her superiors.
While she had hoped to see a change in patient procedures she instead faced harsh repercussions, including orders for a disciplinary hearing and becoming prohibited from patient meetings. Chwick ultimately chose Khawam as her attorney for a whistleblower claim against the VA institution. Khawam represented the case, acknowledging Chwick’s efforts and the importance of protecting US veterans.
In another case, the Whistleblower Law Firm represented an Iraqi War Veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to a violent IED attack. While the veteran had been able to return home afterwards, he did not receive the appropriate diagnosis and disability support deserved for the condition. The Whistleblower Law Firm worked to help earn the appropriate compensation, better enabling the veteran to live a fulfilling life.
PTSD drastically impacts anyone who suffers from it, and veterans often have some of the worst cases due to the potentially violent nature of deployment. Without proper treatment, those who suffer from PTSD are likely to develop other anxiety disorders and commit suicide. By advocating for appropriate benefits of veterans, the Whistleblower Law Firm can help them receive the treatment they deserve.
Panel Moderation at the Summit for Civil and Human Rights
Aside from representing clients and advocating for veterans’ rights, Khawam also brings these issues forward for discussion with her fellow attorneys. She has made appearances at the Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights. This summit works to acknowledge how whistleblowing has an impact on the law and curbing incidents of fraud. At the 2018 Summit, Khawam and her fellow Whistleblower Law Firm members, Sabrina Mentor and Daniel Maharaj, worked to host a panel related to veterans’ rights.
The panel, Blowing the Whistle at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs – Another Perspective was a discussion-based panel, focusing on the recent 2017 legal implementation of the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Specifically, the panel focused on discussing the state of affairs within the VA for whistleblowers following the new act. Aside from Khawam and her fellow Whistleblower Law Firm members, panelists included three VA whistleblowers and an investigative reporter to take part in the discussion.
Conversations like these are an essential part of protecting veterans’ rights. As the VA is responsible for administering and caring for veterans’ benefits, issues inside the core of the system could hurt the veterans who depend on it. Having an active whistleblower culture that discourages and stands up against these issues allows for veterans to receive the support they deserve. As someone who wants to protect these rights, Khawam encourages those who have recognized corruption and errors within or impacting the VA system to speak up.