House, Senate panels to hold joint hearing at VA 'Candy Land'

Two key congressional panels announced Monday that they would convene a joint field hearing later this month to look into a Veterans Affairs Department facility where pain medication was allegedly prescribed to patients like candy.

The House Veterans’ Affairs and the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs committee will hold the hearing on March 30 at the Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin, which was nicknamed “Candy Land” by patients because of the amount of opiates its staff handed out.

“Unfortunately, the situation at the Tomah VAMC 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,” said House VA chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

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He said that while he was glad VA Secretary Robert McDonald had launched an investigation into the facility "it’s important for us to hold this hearing to hear directly from veterans and families, determine the steps VA has taken to address the facility’s problems since 2014 and identify who at VA — if anyone — will be held accountable.”

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP Republicans wary of US action on Iran Democratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years MORE (R-Wisc.) said Congress “needs a clear understanding of what happened in Tomah and why it happened. We have asked many questions of the VA, and we expect them to be answered.”

Lawmakers also “need to hear from the Wisconsinites who were affected directly,” according to Johnson, who last month threatened to subpoena the VA for stifling his investigation into the Tomah site.

He cited the deaths of two men that have been linked to the facility, including a Marine Corps Marine who died of an overdose while in the hospital last year.

Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinFederal funding for Chinese buses risks our national security Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall The Trump downturn: Trouble ahead for the US economy MORE (D-Wisc.), who has come under fire for her handling of whistleblower reports about Tomah, described the joint field hearing as an “opportunity to put solutions in place to prevent these problems and tragedies from ever happening again and to ensure the VA delivers the timely and highest-quality care our Wisconsin veterans have earned.”