• Senator Slams VA Inspector General For Trying To Whitewash Tomah Problems

    Republican Sen. Ron Johnson chastised the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General on Thursday for responding to allegations of opioid overprescription and coverup at the Tomah facility with victim-blaming— all, he said, to defend the IG’s initial investigation.

    Johnson, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wrote to Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday saying that he received an unsolicited letter and white paper from retiring IG Richard explaining — in evasive language — the validity of Tomah’s health-care inspection.

    The IG conducted its original investigation of the troubled facility in 2011 and finally closed the report in March 2014, keeping it from Congress until Feb. 6, 2015. Although the findings “raised potentially serious concerns,” investigators did not substantiate any allegations. When the report finally came out publicly, both the facility and IG drew serious fire. (RELATED: VA Whistleblower Tells Obama In Person To Pick A Permanent Inspector General)

    Other agencies have kept quiet as well. The Drug Enforcement Administration has declined to offer notes to Congress on its own investigation of opioids ending up on the street in the surrounding area.

    According to Johnson, the recent letter and white paper “resort to ad hominin (sic) attacks, misleading statements, and victim-blaming,” and the IG has still refused to comply with a subpoena for more information issued by the committee on April 29.

    Instead, Johnson says, the IG white paper attacks whistleblowers and “impugns their motives, assassinates their character, and offers irrelevant information to discredit their accounts.” Johnson’s letter addresses complaints against each Tomah whistleblower maligned by the IG. In 2009, VA clinical psychologist Christopher Kirkpatrick was fired from his position after shining light on Houlihan’s improper behavior directed at both staff and patients.

    Rather than taking careful note of Kirkpatrick’s allegations, or even refuting them, the IG focused on whatever information appeared most damaging his personal reputation. The IG dug through the sheriff’s report, highlighting the fact that Kirkpatrick had marijuana in his home at the time of his suicide.

    “However, the only analysis of this information, which the VA OIG offers with scant evidence, appears to consist of blaming Dr. Kirkpatrick and implying that drug use contributed to his death,” Johnson’s letter reads. “Nowhere does the VA OIG discuss the actual evidence in the Junea County Sheriff’s file relevant to the subject matter of its inspection of the Tomah VAMC.”

    Tomah has a long history of opioid overprescription and whistleblower retaliation stemming back to at least 2004, which is when a previous report released by Johnson indicates that employees and staff started calling Dr. David Houlihan the “Candy Man” for incredibly lax prescription policies. (RELATED: Tomah VA Hearing Reveals Shocking Details About Retaliation And Opioid Abuse)

    In one tragic case, former Marine Cpl. Jason Simcakoski died in 2014 from an accidental overdose. Doctors had added one more drug to his stack of 14 different medications.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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