Chairman Johnson Releases Interim Majority Staff Report: “Tragedy at Tomah: Initial Findings”

WASHINGTON — Under the direction of Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the majority staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released an interim report of preliminary findings from its investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis.  

The interim report updates Wisconsinites on the committee’s work since the March 30 bicameral field hearing that I convened in Tomah,” Johnson said.  “Given the lack of accountability and transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs and VA Office of Inspector General, I have made it a priority to work tirelessly to uncover the truth of what occurred at the Tomah VA Medical Center.  Wisconsin’s veterans deserve answers about what has happened in Tomah over the last decade.  This report attempts to provide additional details about the tragedies at Tomah.” 

The majority staff highlighted six preliminary findings in its interim report.  The findings are: 

  • As early as 2004, employees at the Tomah VA Medical Center referred a certain provider at the facility as the “Candy Man”;
  • VA pharmacists who did not work at the Tomah VA Medical Center found that prescribing practices at the medical center placed the facility in danger of losing its Drug Enforcement Administration controlled substance accreditation in 2013;
  • The DEA has conducted at least three separate inquiries regarding potential drug diversion at the Tomah VA Medical Center;
  • The VA did not conduct any investigation into the firing and suicide of former Tomah VA Medical Center employee Dr. Christopher Kirkpatrick;
  • The potential diversion of VA prescription medications extends beyond Tomah to Sheboygan County, Wis.; and
  • The VA Office of Inspector General told witnesses interviewed during the Tomah VA Medical Center health care inspection to expect a public report on the results of the inspection by early 2013. 

The findings contained in this initial report are a first step in identifying serious problems at the facility,” Chairman Johnson said.  “It is disturbing to learn that the ‘Candy Man’ nickname dates back over a decade and that independent consultants found that the Tomah VA Medical Center was at serious risk of losing its Drug Enforcement Administration controlled substance accreditation in 2013.  I am troubled to see that numerous federal agencies appeared to have made multiple attempts to address the serious problems at the facility for a number of years and nothing happened.  Had these agencies acted, veterans’ lives may have been saved.”           

Since January, Johnson has launched a thorough and independent investigation of the allegations surrounding the Tomah VA Medical Center.  Johnson has sent 18 letters related to the medical center, and his committee has received tens of thousands of pages of documents.  Johnson’s staff has spoken with dozens of whistleblowers.  In April, after multiple efforts to secure the VA Office of Inspector General’s voluntary cooperation, Johnson issued a subpoena for documents relating to the medical center. 

The committee’s investigation is far from over,” Johnson said.  “We continue to uncover troubling facts about the medical center.  However, as the committee continues its work, the Tomah community and veterans nationwide deserve to know the facts about what has occurred over the last decade at the facility.  Once we learn all the facts, we can enact meaningful reforms and hold wrongdoers accountable.”     

A copy of the interim report can be found HERE