Tags: VA Scandal | candy land | VA | hospital | Tomah | Sen. Tammy Baldwin | wisconsin

Whistleblower: Sen. Baldwin AWOL on Fixes to VA 'Candy Land' Hospital

By    |   Tuesday, 20 January 2015 07:05 PM

Although Sen. Tammy Baldwin's office received an inspector general's report spotlighting the overprescription of opiates at a Tomah, Wisconsin, Veterans Affairs facility last summer, there is no evidence that her office took action on its findings until last week, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported.

A whistleblower — former Tomah VA employee Ryan Honl — said he learned in November that Baldwin, a Democrat, had had a copy of the report for months.

But "there is no indication her office took any action until last week, when she called for an investigation after a news report that a veteran died from an overdose at the facility," according to the Press Gazette.

Emails provided by Honl show that in November, he began urging a Baldwin aide, in emails, that the senator take action at the hospital, known among many veterans in the area as Candy Land.

"It is very disconcerting that a United States senator would have been able to read the report and yet government still has allowed the Tomah leadership to ruin lives and run good doctors and physicians out of the facility," he wrote on Nov. 24.

Various members of the senator's staff urged Honl not to talk to the press and to understand the importance of letting staffers "take your time doing something because there is a process that must be followed."

But Honl, believing that veterans in the Tomah facility were in danger, tried to prod Sen. Baldwin's office into acting quickly.

"My question is, how long do veterans who are addicted to opiates at the Tomah VA, that are also flooding the streets of Tomah, have to wait to receive proper treatment," he wrote in early December. "When will Senator Baldwin say 'enough is enough' and push for better treatment of veterans and a better culture free of intimidation and retaliation in Tomah and VA wide for those who whistle-blow?"

But Honl said he heard nothing from Baldwin's office until after the Center for Investigative Reporting issued a report Jan. 8 explaining the inspector general's findings and providing details of the death of Jason Simcakoski, who fatally overdosed in the psychiatric ward of the Tomah facility in August.

For months, Baldwin was "the only one that ever had this report," Honl said, calling it "a travesty that you've got a United States senator and her staff sitting on this report."

Other members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation have been working with Honl to address concerns about problems at the Tomah facility.

WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee reported Tuesday that Honl is now working with the offices of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, Democratic Rep. Ron Kind and Republican Rep. Sean Duffy to hold the VA accountable.

"To be at this point right now where legislation is being worked on, this is my only goal," Honl said. "I want to see this legislation because if they don't fix this, there are going to be more Jason Simcakoskis out there, and God knows how many more of them are out there across the VA that have died at the hands of these maniacs."

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Although Sen. Tammy Baldwin's office received an inspector general's report spotlighting the overprescription of opiates at a Tomah, Wisconsin, Veterans Affairs facility last summer, there is no evidence that her office took action on its findings until last week, the Green...
candy land, VA, hospital, Tomah, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, wisconsin, whistleblower, opiates, overdose
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2015-05-20
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 07:05 PM
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