In a letter issued Thursday, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson urged the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General to open a new inquiry at the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center.
Johnson sent his letter before news broke that a northern Wisconsin veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder committed suicide. The mother of 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran Brian Rossell of Wausau said her son sought help from the Tomah VA during the summer and was turned away.
Rossell’s body was found Thursday in Lake Wausau, according to the Wausau Daily Herald.
Rossell left his Wausau home with his service dog, but without his keys, wallet, ID and phone, at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, the newspaper reported. He was known to never leave home without the service dog he kept to ease his mental illnesses, but the dog was found without a leash or collar in the parking lot of his apartment complex Sunday around 11:30 p.m., police said.
Rossell suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, paranoia and schizoaffective disorder, according to police, the paper said.
Citing information received from a whistle-blower in late August, Johnson’s letter said the facility’s mental health clinic “suffers from a shortage of providers despite an increase in veterans seeking treatment at the clinic.”
“The whistle-blower said that if this situation is not corrected quickly, “another disaster’ could occur at the facility,” the letter said.
The VA has acknowledged failures at the Tomah facility and said it was working to prevent similar problems in the future. The Tomah VA became known as “Candy Land” because of overprescription of medications. In Aug. 2014, Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski died at the facility as a result of “mixed drug toxicity.”