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Sen. Baldwin breaks silence, says she is reviewing Tomah VA response

February 25, 2015 (Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Wednesday she is conducting a comprehensive review of how her office handled a critical inspection report questioning the prescribing of opiates to veterans at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wisconsin and subsequent pleas from a whistleblower that she take action.

"I am in a very detailed and careful fashion, comprehensive fashion, seeking to understand everything that happened in my office in terms of the handling of a whistleblower case," the Madison Democrat said. "And I will have lots more to say when we come to the end of that process."

It was the first time she has answered questions about the issue since USA TODAY reported January 19 that her office got the report in August but didn't do anything with it, despite repeated emails from a former Tomah employee in November and December asking her to investigate. Baldwin didn't call for an investigation until last month, when news reports revealed a veteran died from an overdose as an inpatient in the Tomah facility in August.

Baldwin did not indicate when her internal review will be completed, saying only "as soon as we can."

"Right now our major focus is on the investigation that's ongoing into Tomah," she said. " Our veterans deserve the highest quality health care. We've got to get to the bottom of the problems in Tomah."

Baldwin fired her top aide in Wisconsin following the USA TODAY report and offered the aide a severance agreement that included a cash payout and confidentiality clause. The aide, Marquette Baylor, rejected the deal earlier this month.

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