Ron is standing up for Wisconsin veterans by pressing the Milwaukee VA for answers on security problems and an overdose death at the facility. Ron said, “Veterans with drug addiction should not fear for their health and safety due to the accessibility of illegal drugs while receiving care for their addiction.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs requesting information on security problems — including an overdose death — at the inpatient drug rehabilitation unit of the Clement J. Zablocki VA in Milwaukee.
“In particular, it appears that veterans and visitors have been able to easily transport illegal drugs and other contraband into the domiciliary unit,” Johnson wrote VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald on Tuesday.
“The free flow of illicit substances into the domiciliary has led to reports of multiple veterans overdosing on drugs while receiving treatment at the facility,” said Johnson, who chairs the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.
In November, Cole Schuler, 26, a former U.S. Army Ranger from the Fox Valley, died of a heroin overdose in the Zablocki Residential Treatment Program.
Johnson wrote that in a briefing with his staff, “VA officials stated that in the wake of Mr. Schuler’s passing, the Zablocki VA increased security checks and monitoring for contraband at the facility. Even with the changes made in the wake of Mr. Schuler’s death, the Zablocki VA should work to ensure that other veterans do not have access to illegal drugs in the domiciliary unit.”
“After the death of Mr. Schuler, an Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) made 16 recommendations that were reportedly implemented; however, subsequently, another veteran was apparently able to obtain and overdose on heroin while receiving treatment at the facility,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson said the “recent overdose — after Mr. Schuler’s death — raises questions about potentially larger problems at the Zablocki VA.”
The second overdose did not result in the patient’s death.
In his letter, Johnson asked what recommendations were made to improve security and what is the status of the Zablocki VA’s implementation of the recommendations. He also asked for a status update on the VA investigation into Schuler’s overdose death, as well as policies the agency is implementing “to prevent illegal drugs from entering VA medical facilities.”
Previously, Johnson’s committee investigated the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center, where a 35-year-old former U.S. Marine named Jason Simcakoski died from a mixture of medications while being treated there in 2014. Earlier this year, Republicans on Johnson’s committee concluded a “culture of fear” permeated the facility.
David Houlihan — a psychiatrist who was chief of staff at the Tomah center — was dubbed the “candy man” by some veterans for his supposedly easy and widespread distribution of painkillers to his patients.
A Target 2 Investigates report now has Congress calling to investigate the VA medical center in Milwaukee.
We first told you in May that one Fox Valley veteran died and another nearly died of a heroin overdose while in the VA’s care.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is now calling on the head of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC, to investigate whether security improvements have been made at the facility.
That call is based in large part on our Target 2 report in May, and we’ve continued to dig into these problems.
The latest call for action is a letter Sen. Johnson sent Tuesday to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to investigate the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. The Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee cites our investigations, saying he, too, now wants answers.
“Veterans with drug addiction should not fear for their health and safety due to the accessibility of illegal drugs while receiving care for their addiction,” the senator writes.