VA Opioid Scandal

Benjamin KrauseA Wisconsin VA has come in the cross hairs of national media after the Drug Enforcement Agency and VA OIG started investigating a VA opioid scandal related deaths of veterans.

Known as “Candy Land,” the Tomah VA Medical Center and its chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan have been linked to over prescribing controlled narcotics. The over prescribing led to the recent death of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski and is possibly linked to the deaths of others.

The 35-year-old veteran checked into the Tomah VA last summer. At the time, he was taking over one dozen drugs. The drugs included anti-psychotics, tranquilizers, and a painkiller. Dr. David Houlihan then added Suboxone, which is an opioid used to treat addiction. Jason Simcakoski died of “mixed drug toxicity” a few weeks later.

Simcakoski was not the only veteran getting high doses of drugs from VA. According to VA pharmacist David Hughs, some veterans were prescribed 800 oxycodone pills a month, “enough to wipe out a typical retail pharmacy in one go.” Hughs went on to critique the facility for its obsession with less urgent issues like an asbestos problem or spilling a Coke can on a computer keyboard.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is now investigating the opioid issue and the State of Wisconsin is also evaluating three health care providers for violating ethics rules including Dr. David Houlihan.

Houlihan was previously admonished by the State of Iowa some years prior to moving to Tomah for inappropriate relationships with patients. VA apparently thought it was wise to hire him into the Tomah VA facility.

Meanwhile, veterans across VA are being hit hard by new restrictive policies that prohibit previous prescriptive practices. Without warning, VA stopped filling prescriptions for painkillers that many veterans desperately need to cope with extensive war wounds such as missing limbs and blast exposure.

So where are you at on the issue with the VA opioid scandal? Have you been harmed by VA cutting you off without notice or did you experience problems from careless prescriptive practices?


The VA’s reaction is a bit like child mentality in that their knee-jerk reaction has been literally, overkill, in now simply stating NOBODY can have ANY opioid painkiller, rather than doing the proper thing and actually evaluating HIRING PRACTICES and ACCOUNTABILITY of the VA’s practitioners. No…instead, without warning, recklessly and abruptly without even the option of titrating people off said meds….doing it COLD TURKEY is incredibly dangerous! THAT is certainly NOT the medically preferred method in the “real medical world”… Read more »
Don Karg

Lawsuits and even class action lawsuit the VA has contained [re: class action lawsuit in 2007–73 pages 300 issues]; however, the VA cannot handle the Public nor a Public driven Media [where Carl Icahn cannot call the shots]….this is when Americans tell the politicians how it is!

Gulf Vet

It is sad. Denying pain medication does open the door to make suicide an option. I’d never contemplated it while my pain was being controlled but I have to admit, without the medication, suicide appears pleasant. Even though I have everything to live for and wonderful people in my life, it’s all for naught if it’s overshadowed by the elephant in the room – debilitating pain. The option becomes desirable.

Gulf Vet, You bring up a good point and a point that not may people want to look at because of the nature of it (suicide because of the pain). Not looking into this part of the problem with the cut off of the pain meds needed to have a quality of life; this is sometimes the result of it. I would be interested to see a number that shows how many vets and other people have taken this route… Read more »
Gulf Vet, you should look into the Wisconsin State Department of Veterans Affairs. It is separate from the federal DVA and has many good veterans involved in it. Staying busy with them may help in some way. I served on their Long Term Care Committee there several years ago, and was shocked at how big that department is, how many activities they have, and how many benefits they provide to Wisconsin veterans. They have long term care facilities at King… Read more »
Don Karg
02/24/2015 Dear Benjamin Krause, Its more—than just the VA and the Veterans—it is the whole Tomah Community that suffered by this drug trafficking and having the citizens/veterans hooked on the drug —-Dr. David Houlihan was prepping the community to be placed on the incoming heroin [like I said before get use to saying sabotage]—the citizens/veterans will be looking for a substitute after being cut off by the doctors/administrators who think they are doing the right thing by an abrupt stop… Read more »
@Don, I hope you DO realize that *not everyone* is “hooked” on their prescribed pain medicine and do not feel a “need” for the so-called “high” addicts in fact chase…no, we Veterans that take our pain meds as properly prescribed require them to simply be out of physical “pain’…not pacifying nor masking some veiled addiction. People tend to personify a drug or even the very “streets”, thus vilifying those that genuinely need RX’s to have a semblance of a normal… Read more »
Gulf Vet
There is a thin line between use of needed pain medication and addiction. Yet, doctors at the VA – in Tomah – choose to blame the veteran when in fact it’s their own shortcomings which sear this issue into the forefront. Cutting off access is not the answer. It’s a body chemistry known fact the body will adjust to a certain dose and eventually need a higher dose. This does make it easy to make one appear to be drug… Read more »
Carol Vogelman
I can’t get a small Rx for percodan filled; they are being held back and I am furious about all this; I am in great sympathy with you vets you should be honored not treated like bad children who just want to get high! I am 69 and suffer trauma, FMS, spinal stenosis, all kinds of peripheral stuff; I would never have been let in the military! Our entire population of chronic pain patients is being harmed badly by our… Read more »
Gulf Vet
I get care at Tomah and I was harmed by being cut off from access to a pain medication. I was very clear about the level of my pain and it was confirmed with a MRI but the doctor repeatedly chose to deny positively needed to reduce that pain. I was left to taking 6000 MG a day of Tylenol which did little to help. My days spent were in such debilitating pain I could do little other than the… Read more »
John Albers

Maybe Mr. Benjamin Krause, Esq. (lawyer) can give advice and/or recommendations of taking the VA hospital and/or your doctors to Federal Court for failing to provide adequate medical care to you, as well as other malpractice.

This can be useful for other Veterans who have similar issues at the local VA hospital.

Shirley desmond

Great Idea John, how about it Ben???


Torture and Unethical is exactly what it is.

J. Edward Vernon jr.

Not being a Doc or even medically astute, I wouldn’t care or try to give an OPINION, but I do HOPE / PRAY THAT OUR GOVT. cleans up it’s ACT as far as Veteran policies.
ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR the damages caused by these MINDLESS WARS, would be a good START.

russ dale
Ben, While on active duty as a medical corpsman during the TET, I was injured three times and simply can not function without pain killers. Over the last forty-five years it has been necessary to incrementally increase the dosages to control the pain. The VA “lost” my medical records as soon as I filed a claim for disability. After a five year battle I finally obtained a rating for other medical issues unrelated to my primary problems. The result is… Read more »
Russ, do you have your medical records on paper? If not, did you try and get them from the Release of Information office at your local VAMC? This would show that you have had this condition and have been treated for it. You can also show that you have had previous prescriptions for the med(s) you are trying to get. If you have been getting treatment from the same VA then you should have no problem getting them. I always… Read more »



I actually did not hear a PEEP about ANY of this on National News…but I also do not watch “Fox and Friends”, as my IQ would diminish otherwise.
Furthermore, WHY is it NOT in the mainstream media about the VA cutting ALL VETs pain management meds across the whole system? Something does not seem quite right here.

Scott Bruno
Ya namnibor, it’s called, “early warning” for what is yet to come. And what is yet to come aint to pretty. Sure wished I would have went through with a past project that involved producing affordable housing for veterans in what I was proposing we do, that was to produce veteran based communities. Anyone know someone or a group with deep pockets to fund a feasibility run on producing the first ever veteran community of housing? I know 110% tbat… Read more »

scott that model was used after ww2 in Levittown but there was employment at grumann and Fairchild Republic aerospace and also NYC in a great employmennt time . Today you have to find the employment before you build the homes.

Carol Vogelman

Please call NPR and ask for stories about this I want civilian & Veterans to unite to fight for our rights to our healthcare we ALL deserve better I need small doses of percodan to “bump” Vicodin it’s all pretty small but it keeps me ambulatory!

I for one use the Tomah VA & have had absolutely no problems. I take oxycodone for my pain 3 to 4 times daily. My doctor did tell me that YES I will be addicted to this drug, but not like you think. I take it for pain & have no feelings as to I have to have it for the HIGH. I don’t even have any high and all it does is stop some of the pain for me… Read more »
Your post helps me because it is exactly what my prescription is for. Although, my opioid painkiller is prescribed by a non-VA, it is being maligned in lines with all other opiod prescriptions out there in the general patient population. I have had 2 failed major spinal reconstructive surgeries, risky spinal shots do not work ( expensive however). The painkiller also stabilized my mood, duh, not a happy camper if getting shooting, stabbing pains. Now, with DEA in lines with… Read more »
I work as a substance abuse counselor in Indiana. I am service connected and I have treated many veterans at the facility I currently work at Fairbanks Hospital . Many veterans come here for treatment because the Rhoudebush Hospital , the Marion and Battle Creek facilities all are horrible centers that the veterans have relayed to me . It seems that the workers there dont give a crap , sounds familiar and the veterans want to get clean so they… Read more »
Tim, I am one of those who has had trouble with the Indy VA. I moved to IN from WA with the understanding from the Indy VA that my meds would be the same (unless the med was not in their formulary) so I was not worried about the move. What a nightmare! I know that my problem is not as bad as some other vets but you are proving that the Indy VA is so afraid to prescribe the… Read more »
Scott Bruno
Tim, I for one fully commend you for having the integrity to post your sharings here. You are the first person to confirm what is happening in regards to the chronic pain patient being cut from their pain meds and then having to find those meds on the street; which may begin with pills but soon moves to heroin because of the affordability factor. A veteran cannot afford to buy pills on the street due to pricing being to high,… Read more »

Thanks Scott , its all about money and greed !

Gary M Bradshaw jr
Scott I could not have said it any better. I posted something along the same lines Heroin has hit our small city here in Missouri and along with it more killings than I can ever remember since Dec last year we have had many mass murders here ,it crazy i got to thinking about whom gave the DEA there orders since you and I know we all answer to somebody ,there is something called the KALEO foundation it has to… Read more »
Carol Vogelman

If you walk on a sprained ankle you can’t heal so are “dependent” on a crutch! You are NOT addicted to crutches!
There is absolutely no virtue in enduring horrid suffering it will shorten your life!


i would contact your federal rep first and then also go to the media and have them run your heartfelt story. if you cant get an appt in 30 days you are allowed to get help in the private sector, also ask for fee basis to pay for a pain management clinic or doctor. Most of all dont let va bully you. You served ,you deserve better!!

Randolph Rogers
I tried not one news paper or news network will report the VA is killing veterans with addictive drugs me on Clonazepam then 4 other times VA over medicated me .Even to the point of congested heart failure And I approached 67 attorney’s not a pone would take the case even though I have documented proof of Medical malpractice from 2 VA doctors 682 351 3758 is my cell phone or email [email protected] WHAT KIND OF GOVERNMENT KILLS ITS OWN… Read more »

The va killed my husband- 29 oct 2011


Did you hear that 23 veterans are commiting suicide everyday or are you living under a rock


Mr. Rogers , Go down to a local tv station and give them your infomation. If know one will report it then how did this information come out that we know right now ??

Kira Hoff
A very close friend of mine went to this clinic and had this doctor as his primary physician. Dr.Houlihan & the Tomah Va did nothing wrong. The 800 oxycodone pills a month was a low dose oxycodone so that a patient could take very low dose up to maximum safe amount for his tolerance level. I myself was on 540 pills a month (private clinic) until the doctor told me he was discontinuing pain patients due to fear of the… Read more »