House and Senate lawmakers will hold a field hearing in Wisconsin at the end of March to look into problems at the Tomah Veterans Affairs facility, nicknamed "Candy Land" for its alleged high number of pain medication prescriptions written by officials.
Members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will host a March 30 hearing in the central Wisconsin suburb, which has become an increasing center of focus for national lawmakers.
A Center for Investigative Reporting investigation last year found that prescriptions and use of opiates at the Tomah VA Medical Center rose sharply in recent years, even as the number of patients declined.
Members of the Wisconsin delegation have demanded a formal VA investigation, but have also taken criticism for not reacting sooner to allegations of prescription abuse. Last month, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said she would conduct an internal review to see whether her staffers may have ignored reports of problems.
Committee officials said the March 30 hearing will include families of veterans treated at the medical center and "others with insight into the operation of the hospital."
VA Secretary Bob McDonald has said his department is looking into the allegations. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, said lawmakers need to see if those steps are enough.
"Unfortunately, the situation at the Tomah [medical center] 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," Miller said in a statement. "It's important for us to hold this hearing to … identify who at VA — if anyone — will be held accountable."
The hearing will be open to the public, but no location for the event has been finalized.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.