Bipartisan bill introduced to strengthen opioid safety in VA choice program
By BILL GLAUBER | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 16, 2017
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and five others introduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday to strengthen opioid safety in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The legislation got a boost from Marvin and Linda Simcakoski, who traveled from Stevens Point to Washington, D.C., to support the effort.
In August, 2014, their son, U.S. Marine veteran Jason Simcakoski, died as a result of "mixed drug toxicity" while being treated by doctors at the Tomah VA Medical Center.
A 2016 law named after their son strengthened opioid prescribing practices and guidelines at the VA.
In written testimony to a Senate committee, Marvin Simcakoski said the new legislation addresses concerns raised by an Inspector General's report "that shows veterans receiving care outside the VA don't have the same opioid prescribing and monitoring guidelines that Jason's Law requires inside the VA."
"We need to stay vigilant and I am going to work my hardest to see that this legislation also gets across the finish line," Marvin Simcakoski said in his testimony.
The VA choice program allows eligible veterans to receive health care from a community provider.
Among its provisions, the legislation directs non-VA community care providers to submit opioid medications they prescribe to a veteran to a VA pharmacy for dispensing. The providers would also have to make sure the prescription is included in the VA database and the patient's medical record.
Co-sponsors of the Senate bill include Republicans Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Jon Tester of Montana.
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