A federal report claims there was a “systemic failure” in how allegations of prescription opiate abuse at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center were handled by investigators.
The probe, carried out by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and released Tuesday morning before a field hearing in Tomah, examined the VA Office of Inspector General’s response to reports that painkillers were being over-prescribed to patients in Tomah. It found mentions of the problem dating back as far as 2004, many of which resulted in investigations that were closed quickly with little or no follow up.
The scandal surrounding prescription opiate abuse in Tomah were made public in 2014 and have been linked to the deaths of at least two patients. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who chaired the hearing in Tomah, said “The bottom line of what this report shows is that it was the failure of the Office of Inspector General, and the failure of other agencies and offices, to actually highlight the problems that they were made aware of, that allowed these tragedies to occur.”
The field hearing included testimony from Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and the Department’s Inspector General Michael Missal, both of whom took their positions after the scandal erupted and multiple people were fired for their actions in Tomah. Both men detailed the numerous reforms that have been put in place in the wake of the scandal, and steps that have been taken to make sure allegations of prescription drug abuse are taken seriously in the future. “VA leadership owns this,” Gibson told the panel.