VA gathering information on Tomah Medical Center

By BILL GLAUBER | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 30, 2016

Responding to requests from Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General is gathering information on the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center in the wake of an apparent suicide of a U.S. Army veteran.

In a letter dated Sept. 20, VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal said his department is looking into "allegations related to staffing shortages" at Tomah's mental health clinic.

"We will assess all the information and determine our next steps based on our analysis of the matter," Missal said in the letter to Johnson.

Missal's letter indicated his department was also obtaining information on the care provided U.S. Army veteran Brian Rossell, 29, of Wausau, who died of an apparent suicide in early September. Rossell's mother claimed he sought help from the Tomah VA but was turned away during the summer. Officials at the facility have said they do not turn away veterans for care.

In two letters, Johnson urged Missal to open a new inquiry at the Tomah facility, and asked the VA to provide "a complete accounting" of interactions between Rossell and the Tomah VA Medical Center.

Missal's office is also investigating Sunday's death of a veteran who was found unresponsive at the Tomah facility. The person who died was in the Veterans Assistance Foundation program, which helps homeless veterans. The foundation leases space at the medical center.

That person has not been identified.

Earlier this year, the VA acknowledged failures at the Tomah facility and said it was working to prevent similar problems 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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