U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) wants to get to the bottom of allegations that the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Tomah has been over-prescribing opiates to its patients.
The La Crosse Democrat on Monday sent a letter to the federal Department of Veterans Affairs requesting a formal investigation of what he calls “serious allegations” of over-prescribing painkillers at the facility. “And not just focused on Tomah.” But, he wants to see “if this is something more system-wide throughout the entire VA medical system throughout the country on our treatment of veterans, especially with post traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.
Kind, whose district includes the VA hospital in Tomah, says every veteran deserves the best care possible, so the top priority needs to be “determining what the problem is and resolving it immediately.”
The Center for Investigative Reporting said the numbers of opiate prescriptions at Tomah grew by over 500 percent from 2004-to-2012, even as the numbers of veterans seeking care declined.
AUDIO: Kind responds to the report of over-prescribed painkillers at Tomah. :63
Kind also wants to know what, if anything, is being done about it. “What steps have been taken to start implementing the inspector general’s report that came out in the spring of 2014?”
If something isn’t working well in the delivery of medical services, Kind says, “We need to know about it and we need to fix it immediately.”
According to the report, workers who raised questions about patients being “doped-up” were punished. A Marine died last August from “mixed drug toxicity” — or an overdose. The information came to light after a federal whistle-blower complaint was filed.