Senator Ron Johnson set to release 350-page report on painkiller scandal at Tomah VA

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

TOMAH -- U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he'll release a report Tuesday that will show how government agencies silenced whistleblowers' concerns and put veterans at risk in a painkiller scandal at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The 350-page report is the result of an investigation conducted by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which Johnson chairs. The panel will hold a field hearing in Tomah on Tuesday.

Tomah VA Medical Center

Tomah VA Medical Center

The scandal, in which doctors overprescribed painkillers to patients, has become a central issue in Johnson's difficult re-election fight against Democrat Russ Feingold. Both men have lobbed attacks at each other, claiming that neither was able to prevent the abuse from continuing.

Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

"Time after time, when people raised the issue with members of the VA or the Department of Justice or the FBI or the (Drug Enforcement Agency), people just didn`t do anything about it," Johnson told CNN about the report.

At least three people -- including Tomah VA director Mario DeSanctis, chief of staff David Houlihan, and a nurse practitioner -- lost their jobs after the overprescribing scandal came to light. Houlihan was known to veterans as the "Candy Man" because of the quantities of drugs he prescribed, the VA found.

Marine Veteran Jason Simcakoski died in 2014 of a drug overdose at the facility. Whistleblowers have said other veterans also died as a result of the care they received in Tomah.

David Houlihan

David Houlihan

Tuesday's field hearing will be the second one held in Tomah since the beginning of 2015. Simcakoski's father, Marvin, testified at the previous hearing.

"August 30, 2014 was the hardest and most painful day of my life," Simcakoski said of the day his son died.

Jason Simcakoski

Jason Simcakoski

The results of Johnson's committee investigation comes amid finger pointing from both sides on the VA issue.

Tomah VA ad

The Freedom Partners Action Fund, an outside group backed by businessmen and conservative activists Charles and David Koch, has aired a series of TV ads featuring whistleblower Ryan Honl.

In the ads, Honl accuses Feingold of ignoring warnings in 2008 and 2009 while Feingold served in the U.S. Senate.

Yet Lin Ellinghuysen, the union official who sent those warnings to members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation, told the Associated Press that Honl's claim was a "total lie" and her concerns never got to Feingold.

Ellinghuysen has not responded to requests for comment from FOX6 News.

Feingold said the accusations against him had been "debunked," and has since hit back with his own ad.

Feingold's ad says Johnson didn't act on complaints in late 2014. Johnson has blamed the error on staff and said he acted as soon as he learned of the scandal.

Tomah VA ad

At the Republican state convention in Green Bay earlier this month, Johnson said he wasn't politicizing the Tomah case for his own gain. He pointed to the pending committee investigation as proof that he was making progress.

"I`ve gotten real results. I acted immediately," Johnson said. "If someone else is politicizing it, that`s not me."

Houlihan, the so-called "Candy Man," had his medical license restored in April. It had been suspended a month earlier, but an administrative law judge ruled on appeal that he wasn't a danger to public health.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who fired a staffer after her office was initially slow to respond to the Tomah problem, will also attend Tuesday's hearing, a committee spokeswoman said Monday.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.