Wisconsin man testifies on Capitol Hill about VA overprescribing

WASHINGTON  (Gray DC) -- A Wisconsin family is pushing for an update to a law that safeguards against overprescibing opioids to our nation’s veterans.
Wednesday, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) said, “We are introducing today, bi-partisan legislation to close that gap.”
More doctors, who care for veterans, subjected to guidelines and training aimed at preventing opioid overprescription. Baldwin says that’s her goal with a new bill, something Marv Simcakoski approves of.
Marv Simcakoski, an advocate for better treatment of veterans, said, “We just want to save other lives out there right now, and that’s what we’re here for.”

Simcakoski traveled to Capitol Hill Wednesday, hoping to encourage Congress to quickly pass the Baldwin’s bill.
For him, and his wife Linda, this fight couldn’t be any more personal.
Their son Jason, died in 2014 at the VA hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin.
Marv Simcakoski explained, “Jason was a victim that died at the facility from overmedication. And it’s tragic, but we’re here to make sure it doesn’t happen again to other veterans.”
Marv Simcakoski last testified on Capitol Hill in 2015. His son’s story led to the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, a 2016 law which installed sweeping guidelines for the VA system, nationwide.

The VA reports existing law is working, and it’s cutting back on opioid overpresciption at VA hospitals.

However, the VA’s Inspector General Michael Missal told a Senate committee Wednesday that private practice doctors the VA partners with are not subject to the same opioid-related regulations as doctors inside the facilities.
Missal said, “Specifically gaps in health information exchanges between the VA and non-VA providers can put patients at significant risk for serious medication interaction and unintentional or intentional overdose.”
At that same hearing, Marv Simcakoski worked to make the case for Baldwin’s bill. He told the group of senators, “We need to stay vigilant, and I am going to work my hardest to make sure this legislation also gets across the finish line.”

Simcakoski also said conditions at the Tomah VA hospital have significantly improved over the last few years, but said there's still work to be done.

Read the original version of this article at www.graydc.com.

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