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Politics & Government

Family Members, Whistleblowers Testify about Painful Situations at Tomah VA

Tomah VA building for inpatient mental health care

The father of a Marine who died of an overdose at the Tomah VA, told members of Congress on Monday that he sought meetings with his son's doctors, because the 35-year-old seemed frequently over-medicated.

“When we sat down in the room, his doctor turned and pointed at me and she said that I caused her a lot of trouble. She said she spent two-and-a-half hours in meetings because I went over her head, and she could have been taking care of my son. She also said I may know how to build houses and pound nails, but I don’t know anything about taking care of my son,” Simcakoski testified.

His son, Jason Simcakoski died of an overdose, days later, in August of 2014. He was from Stevens Point.

Other veterans who died at the Tomah VA in recent times include 74-year-old Thomas Baer of Marshfield and 27-year-old Jacob Ward of Milwaukee.

Former staff members testified on Monday that they were fired for reporting questionable practices or for refusing to carry-out orders from managers.

Two Congressional committees traveled to Tomah for Monday's hearing, to investigate reports that the VA there prescribed more painkillers than most veterans' hospitals.

While the investigation continues, lawmakers ordered VA leaders to make changes immediately, believing the situation at Tomah illuminates problems at other centers.