Tomah VA investigation report made public 11 months after completion

This investigation was 'administratively closed' in March 2014

Details have been publicly released on a previous investigation into the Tomah VA’s prescription habits and workplace environment.

The report is the result of a two-year investigation at the medical center into allegations of over-prescribing opioids and a hostile work environment.

Those are the same allegations the VA is currently under scrutiny for by the federal government. 

The first investigation was completed almost a year ago but reportedly never given to Congress, including Representative Ron Kind, who initiated the investigation.

This week it was released to the public.

This specific inspection began in 2011.

Kind said he initiated the investigation after receiving an anonymous letter with concerns of prescription rates at the Tomah VA.

The inspection was “administratively closed” in March of last year because there was no conclusive evidence of inappropriate prescription practices.

Kind said no matter what the inspector general found, the report should have been made public a long time ago.

The investigation into practices at the Tomah VA was conducted by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.

The report says the OIG “performed an exhaustive review” and looked into 32 separate allegations, mainly focusing on prescription rates by a “Dr. Z” and a person referred to as “Y.” Also allegations of a hostile work environment allegedly created by Dr. Z.

After a two-year inspection, investigators said they received contradicting facts and could not find evidence of abuse of authority, intimidation and retaliation when staff raised questions, although the report notes these are widely held beliefs by staff in the pharmacy.

The report goes on to show that Y and Dr. Z were among the highest prescribers of opioids within the Tomah VA’s district of seven VA hospitals, but those levels were not enough to raise concern. The report said although the allegations have some merit, they do not constitute proof of wrongdoing.

When the investigation was closed in 2014, Kind expected to hear about the findings, but he didn’t.

“I was very frustrated and angry that the Office of the Inspector General did a two-year comprehensive investigation, did not notify me or any other representatives office, did not publish the report last year, we had to learn about through a media report last month,” Kind said.

Kind said when he approached the inspector general’s office about the report, the department said it was distracted by other issues in the VA system and dropped the ball.

“This game of hide-the-ball just because they didn’t find anything that was actionable is inexcusable,” Kind said.

Kind said there needs to be a system in place for filing these reports following investigations like this one. He said he is in contact with the head of the current investigations taking place at the Tomah VA to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

There are now two investigations going on at the Tomah VA dealing with the latest allegations, one internal and one on the federal level. Those are expected to be finished this month.

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