A report commissioned by the office of Wisconsin U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin found no cover-up or any similar effort to suppress whistleblower allegations, or a report by the Office of Inspector General, into the overmedication of patients at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Tomah.
Baldwin’s office released the findings of the report by a Seattle based law firm on Friday. It blames members of the Democrat’s constituent services staff for mishandling the Inspector General’s report, and said more “could have been done by staff to address the problems at Tomah.”
The report from the Perkins Coie firm found that Baldwin’s constituent services team in Milwaukee did not effectively communicate their work on the issue, either to Baldwin’s Wisconsin State Director, or staff in Washington, D.C.
“On July 1, 2014, Senator Baldwin visited the Tomah VA facility. Senator Baldwin’s Chief of Staff had been pressing the staff to identify problems at Wisconsin VA facilities that could be addressed in the reform legislation moving through Congress following the Phoenix VA scandal. Prior to Senator Baldwin’s trip, staff convened a conference call to go over issues that Senator Baldwin should discuss with facility administrators while at Tomah. Although the Deputy State Director for Constituent Services (Casework Supervisor) was on the call, she inexplicably failed to inform other staff about the whistleblower complaint, the office’s correspondence with the Director of the Tomah VA Medical Center, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Congressional Liaison, the VA Great Lakes Health Care System, VISN 12, or its initial communications with the OIG. As a result, Senator Baldwin was not made aware of this crucial information in advance of her visit to the Tomah facility in July.”
Problems at the Tomah Center initially came to light in January, when the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting said that opiate prescriptions at Tomah grew by over 500 percent from 2004-to-2012, and that a Marine died from an overdose. The Tomah hospital is under an ongoing investigation by VA and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Baldwin in turn came under fire when whistleblower Ryan Honl said he tried working with her office after finding out she had OIG the report, but stayed silent for months. Baldwin fired her deputy state director of constituent services, Marquette Baylor. The Perkins Coie report did not refer to Baylor by name.