Tomah VA briefs senator's staff on Army vet's care prior to suicide

By BILL GLAUBER | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 16, 2016

Officials at the Tomah VA Medical Center provided a briefing Friday with the staff of Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson over the care a U.S. Army veteran received at the facility before his apparent suicide.

Johnson has pressed for answers in the death of Brian Rossell, 29, of Wausau.

Rossell's body was discovered Sept. 8 in Lake Wausau, four days after he was reported missing. Rossell's mother had told local media in Wausau that her son sought help from the Tomah VA during the summer and was turned away.

Without going into the specifics of Rossell's case, a Tomah VA spokesman has said the facility does not turn away eligible veterans for care.

In his statement, Johnson said: “I appreciate that the VA provided a briefing to my staff about Brian Rossell’s care at the Tomah VA Medical Center."

"I remain very concerned about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rossell’s death, and I will continue to seek information from the VA. As chairman of the chief oversight committee of the Senate, I have worked to hold the VA accountable to honor the promises to the finest among us, our nation’s veterans. America’s and Wisconsin’s veterans deserve no less,” he said.

Tomah VA officials also briefed staff from other members of the state's congressional delegation.

Johnson has urged the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general to open a new inquiry into the facility. He has also asked the VA to provide a "complete accounting" of interactions between Rossell and the Tomah VA Medical Center.

After a Johnson-led probe, the VA acknowledged failures at the Tomah facility earlier this year and vowed to prevent similar breaches in the future. The Tomah VA became known as "Candy Land" because of overprescription of medications. In August 2014, Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski died at the facility as a result of "mixed drug toxicity."

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