Four of Wisconsin’s U.S. representatives are asking the House Veterans Affairs panel to hold a hearing in Tomah on reported over-prescriptions, wait times, and other issues at the city’s VA medical center.
Republicans Sean Duffy and James F. Sensenbrenner, and Democrats Mark Pocan and Ron Kind sent a formal request for a field hearing to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House VA Committee.
The request reads in part:
“While we are pleased the VA has launched an internal investigation, it is in Congress’ best interest to learn all we can about what went wrong at Tomah and prevent this situation from happening at other facilities. One veteran dying of an overdose is too many.”
U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He held a hearing last week examining GAO’s 2015 List of High Risk Government Programs. “Over the last couple of years we’ve lost three veterans to the system.”
Johnson told members of the committee it’s disappointing to hear that veterans affairs health care has been added to that list. GAO experts testified that more than 100 of their recommendations to improve VA health care have not been carried out. Johnson says implementation has to be a “top priority,” saying, “Let’s make sure these recommendations are finally implemented at the agency level. It will save money; it will save lives.”
U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) asked the Justice Department for an outside independent probe into the Tomah facility. Baldwin’s office released the following statement:
“I am writing to request that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launch an immediate investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin. I am extremely troubled about reports linking the tragic deaths of three Wisconsin veterans to improper medical care at the facility. Additionally, I have heard concerns regarding the conduct of the Tomah VA and the Tomah VA Police Department in response to the deaths that occurred at the facility. Finally, concerns regarding the illegal distribution and use of prescription drugs that originated at the Tomah VA facility have been raised,” Baldwin said.
The allegations of over-prescribed painkillers were first made public a month ago. 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.