U.S. Senator Ron Johnson says he was “not aware” of problems at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center until an Inspector General’s report was made public in mid-January. That’s despite a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this week, which claimed his staff knew about problems at the facility since at least last October.
The IG report made public in January detailed the over-prescribing of opiates at the Tomah VA, which many patients referred to as “Candy Land.” A federal investigation is now underway.
Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said Wednesday that a tip regarding the problems got lost due to heavy turnover in his office during a lame duck session. However, he said no one had any clue the issues were as extreme as they were. Johnson said “in a perfect world…my staff would have been able to, I guess, divine that there was something that had to be brought to my attention immediately. They didn’t.”
Since the issue became public, Johnson said that he has been working to respond swiftly and aggressively. “We’ve been sending letters, we’ve been conducting our own investigations, we’ve been talking to whistle-blowers and the survivors of these tragedies,” he said.
Johnson is also pushing for future reports from the Inspector General to be released publicly.