This is an absolute travesty.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office received an inspection report last summer detailing high amounts of opiates prescribed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, but there is no indication her office took action on the findings until last week, when she called for an investigation after a news report revealed a veteran died from an overdose at the facility.

The report by the VA inspector general, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY, noted that two practitioners at the center were among the highest prescribers of opiates in a multistate region — at “considerable variance” compared with most opioid prescribers. That, the report said, raised “potentially serious concerns.”

A whistleblower who learned in November that Baldwin had had a copy for months and hadn’t acted, repeatedly emailed her office asking that she do something to help the veterans at the center, according to copies of the emails obtained by USA TODAY.

PDF: Read the report

In them the whistleblower — former Tomah VA employee Ryan Honl — asked that Baldwin call for an investigation, that she push colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee to take action, and that she help bring the issues in the report to public attention. The report had not been made public, but Baldwin’s office received a copy in August.

When she still had not taken public action in December, Honl sent a message to her staffer with the subject line: “Final plea for Help from Senator Baldwin.”

“All we ask is that our senator publicly support our desire to have an open forum rather than remain silent publicly, which is what the VA does in hiding reports from the public,” Honl wrote.

Honl, a Gulf War vet and West Point graduate who left the Tomah facility in October, said in an interview Monday he believes Baldwin’s inaction after receiving the report is a “travesty.”

Baldwin’s office declined to explain what she did between receiving the report in August and last week, when she called for an investigation after the Center for Investigative Reporting published details of the inspection report outlining opiate prescription amounts at the center and recounting the overdose death in August of a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran while he was an inpatient.

The fact that Sen. Baldwin’s office appears to have had the report outlining the excessive prescribing of opiates to veterans by staff at the Tomah VA hospital for months without taking any action is unconscionable.

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2 Responses to Report: Sen. Tammy Baldwin had report detailing excessive opiate prescriptions at Tomah VA for months

  1. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    I also find the story disturbing, but I sense some BS with it. Are you telling me this person only got in contact with Sen. Baldwin’s office, and didn’t contact (mo)Ron Johnson’s or Ron Kind’s as well? That doesn’t add up to me. Maybe they knew Johnson’s history about voting against vets’ benefits and knew he wouldn’t respond here, but it still seems odd.

    Her office has responded promptly to my emails, and answered the questions I asked, so it’s disappointing that they may not have done the same here. The Baldwin office’s excuse is that the VA never got back to them on their concerns, but we’ll see about that.

    • Aaron Camp says:

      Jake, the VA Inspector General’s inspection report noted that Ron Kind received anonymous complaints about treatment practices at the Tomah VA facility back in 2011, although it isn’t clear as to what kind of action, if any, Kind took. Also, I’m not sure if Ron Johnson received a copy of the inspection report as well, although I would be shocked if he did not receive a copy.

      It’s also worth noting that the Wisconsin GOP has not attacked Baldwin over this on their Twitter page (yet), which surprises me, given the Republicans would normally be quick to attack a Democrat over something like this.

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