New federal legislation proposed in the wake of the Tomah Veterans Administration prescription painkiller crisis. The bipartisan Veterans Pain Management Improvement Act would establish pain management boards around the country. It’s based on a recommendation by the VA Office of Inspector General.
“I think it’s a recommendation that we need to move forward on,” said Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind. “This will create statutory authority for the VA to move forward on it, and I think time is of the essence.” The La Crosse Democrat introduced the measure with Congressmen Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY)
The pain management boards would be set up in each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) composed of health care professionals and clinical patients and/or family members of a clinical patient. The pain management boards would:
· Serve as a resource for the region’s facilities, patients, and family members
· Provide best practices recommendations for pain management to the VA facilities within its region, including patient, family member and medical perspectives
· Provide an annual report to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs about pain management practices within its region: what is working and what is not working
· Report to Congress, so that there is greater accountability on pain management practices
The bill is in response to the events at the Tomah VA hospital, where a patient fatally overdosed amid widespread over-prescription of opiate painkillers. “This is a problem that’s endemic throughout the entire health care system, and this may prove to be a model of how we can move forward to correct it,” Kind said.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has scheduled a field hearing in Tomah on Monday.