Oversight sought to fix pain medication problems at VA Hospital

Tomah VA Medical Center under new leadership

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has heard the stories and says it is time to act on the problems at the Tomah VA Hospital.

Kind, the representative from Wisconsin’s 3rd District, listened to testimony from family members and staff at the VA Hospital in Tomah regarding alleged improper use of pain medication.

Marv Simcakoski told members of Congress about the treatment his son, Jason, received over a four-year period at the VA Hospital in Tomah. He said Jason became increasingly addicted to pain medication prescribed by doctors at the hospital.

“Why do you put someone with an addiction to pain meds on pain meds? I can’t begin to tell you how angry that makes me,” Simcakoski said.

He told the members of Congress about a discussion he had with a doctor at the VA Hospital about his son’s addiction.

“One time I told her, I said, ‘You know I see him, and I see a lot of these other patients that are walking around like zombies here. Everybody looks half dead,” Simcakoski said.

On August 30, 2014, Jason died of an overdose while a patient at the VA Hospital in Tomah.

“Clearly with these stories that are out there and the allegations, there are problems that have to be addressed,” Kind said.

In response to the problems, Kind is co-sponsoring the Veterans Pain Management Improvement Act. The bi-partisan legislation is also sponsored by Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wisconsin) and Lee Zeldin (R-New York).

“We’ve got 2 million veterans coming home from long conflicts overseas, whether it is Iraq, whether it is Afghanistan or some of the other conflict areas, and that naturally is going to put pressure on the system, so Congress needs to recognize it just through the sheer numbers that are flooding back,” Kind said.

The legislation would create oversight to the pain management programs at VA hospitals.

“It is a common sense proposal that would establish pain management boards that would work closely with our VA Medical Centers and a more collaborative approach and peer review,” Kind said.

The pain management board would be comprised of health care professionals and clinical patients, family members of clinical patients or both.

The legislation is based on a recommendation from the VA Office of Inspector General.