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Lawmakers Investigating Over-prescribing Of Opiates At Veterans Affairs Facilities

House and Senate lawmakers will hold a field hearing in Wisconsin at the end of March to look into problems at the Tomah Veterans Affairs facility, nicknamed "Candy Land" for its alleged high number of pain medication prescriptions written by officials.

Members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will host a March 30th hearing in the central Wisconsin suburb, which has become an increasing center of focus for national lawmakers.

A Center for Investigative Reporting investigation last year found that prescriptions and use of opiates at the Tomah VA Medical Center rose sharply in recent years, even as the number of patients declined.

The problem with over-prescribing narcotics at VA hospitals has been a topic of concern for quite some time. I have written many articles about this issue because it may be directly related to the high number of suicides by active and detached military veterans.

Members of the Wisconsin delegation have demanded a formal VA investigation, but have also taken criticism for not reacting sooner to allegations of prescription abuse. Last month, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said she would conduct an internal review to see whether her staffers may have ignored reports of problems. Committee officials said the March 30 hearing will include families of veterans treated at the medical center and "others with insight into the operation of the hospital."

VA Secretary Bob McDonald has said his department is looking into the allegations. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, said lawmakers need to see if those steps are enough. "Unfortunately, the situation at the Tomah [medical center] is a familiar one for VA, involving skyrocketing opiate prescription rates, patient deaths, a secret inspector general report, executive bonuses and allegations of retaliatory behavior," Miller said in a statement. "It's important for us to hold this hearing to identify who at VA, if anyone will be held accountable."

One of the major issues with the over-prescribing of narcotics, especially opiates to active military and veterans who have PTSD from combat experience can lead to major issues down the road. If psychological problems are being enhanced by narcotics it is like adding fuel to the fire. People are interested to know why the numbers of prescriptions are so high at VA hospitals. This is a major step in the right direction.

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