NEW INFORMATION: Sen. Johnson investigates overprescribing at Tomah VA

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TOMAH, Wis. (WEAU)-- “The Office of the Inspector General, the watchdog over every federal agency, basically lost its sense of purpose,” says Sen. Ron Johnson as he details findings from a 16-month investigation into disturbing accounts of veteran deaths, whistleblower retaliation and government misconduct surrounding the Tomah VA.

“The failure of the Office of the Inspector General to live up to its mission is really the root cause of why these problems continue to go on,” says Johnson.

Back in June of 2015 Richard Griffin, stepped down as acting director of VA Office of Inspector General. All this after he was under fire for a scandal surrounding the deaths of several veterans who were overprescribed opiates.

Michael Missal, new appointed inspector general was in Tomah Tuesday, discussing how things have changed since he was appointed.

“We have learned important lessons from this experience, including increasing the transparency of our work that should help us better meet our mission going forward. The changes made should increase the confidence of veterans, VSO's congress, and the public, have in us,” says Missal.

Lawmakers were able to question officials within the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs about new accountability procedures within the system.

“This is about delivering safe care to veterans and the failure of leadership that happened here was the failure on the part of the medical care director to take appropriate action. We need to put the veteran at the center of everything you do and that's exactly what we want to do,” says Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary for the U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Maybe one of the biggest questions our policy makers are asking: Is the Tomah VA a safe place for our veterans?

“We need to communicate with the leadership of our medical center, they need to be upfront and honest with us policy makers to make the changes that are necessary,” says Congressman Ron Kind.

Johnson says the investigation is still far from over, and he and Baldwin say they both have proposed legislation surrounding veteran safety.


Democrats are accusing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of using a prescription drug scandal at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center to score political points as he faces a tough re-election battle against Democrat Russ Feingold.

A report on Tomah by the Republican majority of a Senate committee Johnson chairs was released Tuesday. It finds "systemic failures" in an inspector general's review of the facility's problems.

Veterans say at a news conference call organized by the Democratic Party that Johnson is politicizing the issue. U.S. Army Reserve veteran Dave Boetcher says Johnson has shown more passion for talking about the problems than fixing them.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also launched ads about Tomah on social media Tuesday saying Johnson is "no friend of veterans."

Johnson says he's done nothing political.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Democrats are accusing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of using a painkiller scandal at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center to score political points as he faces a tough re-election battle against Democrat Russ Feingold.

A Senate committee report released Tuesday found "systemic failures" in an inspector general's review of problems at the facility. Johnson, who chairs the committee, held a hearing on the issue Tuesday.

The state Democratic party criticized Johnson in a conference call with reporters Tuesday for politicizing his committee chairmanship.

U.S. Army Reserve veteran Dave Boetcher said on the call Johnson has shown more passion for talking about the problems than fixing them.

Johnson says he's done nothing political. He says these are problems that have to be highlighted and he will continue doing his job.


TOMAH, Wis. (AP) -- A U.S. Senate committee probe of health care problems at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center in western Wisconsin has turned up "systemic failures" in an inspector general's review of the facility.

A staff report by the Republican majority of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released Tuesday finds the VA inspector general's office discounted evidence and testimony. The report says the office also needlessly narrowed its inquiry and has no standard for measuring wrongdoing.

The report says the office's failure to publish results of an investigation into the Tomah facility "compromised veteran care." It also says a culture of fear and whistleblower retaliation continues at the facility.

VA inspectors in 2014 found that doctors were over-prescribing painkillers. The deaths of three patients remain under investigation.



 
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