Newly Revealed Email Shows Third Separate Document Warning Senator Feingold About Tomah VA – Earliest Warning To Date

Staffer describes confrontation between “Candyman” and veteran who sent letter in spring 2008 asking Feingold for help

An email uncovered late Monday night revealed a third separate set of public documentation indicating that Senator Feingold or his U.S. Senate office received warnings of mistreatment of Wisconsin veterans at the Tomah VA – this time in March of 2008, the earliest cry for help yet.

“From memos that were marked ‘hand-delivered’ then covered up to a recorded interview with law enforcement to this breathtaking email about a veteran’s cry for help, Senator Feingold’s willingness to ignore the suffering of Wisconsin veterans is quite clear,” Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said. “Senator Feingold had nearly two decades in Washington to fix this instead of saying one thing and doing another, but he didn’t – a stark contrast to Ron Johnson’s immediate and effective action when he learned of these tragedies in January of 2015.”

Key Facts:

  • In the newly revealed email, reported first by Wisconsin Watchdog, a Tomah VA staffer describes a confrontation between a Wisconsin veteran and Dr. David Houlihan, the Tomah VA chief of staff dubbed the “Candyman” because of the deadly over-prescribing going on at the facility. The email states that Houlihan became physical with the veteran, who was in a wheelchair, to the shock of other Tomah VA personnel.
  • The email, dated March of 2008, states that the veteran sent a letter to Senator Feingold’s office. This is the earliest public document yet indicating that Feingold or his office received warnings of what was going on at Tomah, and the third set of documents revealed in total.
  • The first set of documents revealed, as widely reported by media after abreaking investigative report by USA Today/Gannett Wisconsin, were memos marked “hand-delivered” by union representative Lin Ellinghuysen to Senator Feingold’s office in 2009. Ellinghuysen later changed her story under political pressure, as Watchdog also reported.
  • The second set of documents was a police report and audio recording,reported first by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in which Ellinghuysen told the Juneau County Sheriff’s Department that she had personally told Feingold’s office of the issues back in 2008, saying the “walls of Jericho are shaking.”
  • By contrast, Ron Johnson learned of the tragedies at Tomah in January of 2015 and took immediate and effective action, launching a bipartisan investigation as chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. This culminated in a 359-page report finding systemic failures at the Tomah VA.
  • As a result of Ron’s actions, the leadership at the Tomah VA – including the “Candyman” – have been fired, and the corrupt VA Inspector General who covered it up retired under immense public pressure. In addition to holding the wrongdoers accountable for the first time, Ron has also pushed for reforms to help prevent future tragedies.
  • Ron has also proposed reforms that would have helped whistleblowers prevent these tragedies, like the “Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act,” and supports reforms that would give veterans more access and choices for medical care in their communities.