Lessons Of The Scandal As The 2020 Presidential Election Approaches
The Tomah VA Medical Center scandal may be an unpleasant memory and a difficult subject to discuss. But it is worth looking back upon the scandal in the light of changes and improvements that have been implemented in the last few years. This is especially true because this year’s presidential election will determine the course of our nation’s policy toward veterans over the next four years.
During the second term of the Obama-Biden administration, the scandal broke wide open. It was confirmed that David Houlihan, the Tomah VA chief of staff at the time, was deliberately over-prescribing opioids to veterans to such an extreme extent that he was known as “the candy man.” There were credible accusations of abuse of patients, and at least one veteran died of an overdose. Employees who spoke out were intimidated and punished. But eventually the scandal was exposed, and Houlihan and other top officials were fired. (Sources: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – July 1, 2019 at https://bit.ly/2zVEXe0 and WXPR Radio – May 20, 2019 at https://bit.ly/3dotr9s).
So the Tomah VA was mired in controversy and often pointed to as an example of the failures of the Obama-Biden administration. But with reform and dedication, and with Obama and Biden out of office, the Tomah VA has been able to turn a corner, participating in alternative therapies and helping veterans reach peace in their minds and bodies without such heavy reliance on prescription drugs and painkillers.
Last year, in an article entitled “Rebuilding: Tomah VA Medical Center works to improve after opioid scandal,” investigative reporter Katelyn Ferral wrote:
“Nearly five years after the Tomah VA opioid scandal was outlined in a report published by the Center for Investigative Reporting, patients, veterans groups and federal officials say there has been a turnaround, pointing to data showing a decrease in opioid prescription rates. Where there was a previous culture of fear and retaliation, employee morale has also improved, they say. Tomah’s leadership has been replaced and the facility has been chosen as a model site by the VA for several alternative health programs and therapies….” (Source: Capital Times – July 18, 2019 at https://bit.ly/3031cth)
So there has been a turnaround in culture, and a sharp decrease in opioid prescriptions. The old leadership has been removed and replaced, employee morale is much improved, and – most important – better service is being provided to veterans.
This improvement is a solemn reminder that we don’t want to return to those Obama-Biden policies. As we approach the 2020 presidential election, there are grave concerns about electing Joe Biden, who would return us to the worst excesses of the Obama-Biden administration, with its disrespect, neglect, and mistreatment of our nation’s Veterans.