Crime, Drugs And Dead Amish Baby: How A Criminal Underground Is Linked To Harmful Prescriptive Practices At A Wisconsin Veterans Affairs

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Veterans Affairs Houlihan Cocktail

Benjamin KrauseInvestigative reporter Aaron Glantz just released the results of his damning investigation into harmful Veterans Affairs prescriptive practices linked to the death of a little Amish baby.

Glantz’s investigation revealed the story of little Ada Mae Miller. A stoned veteran driving home following treatment at Tomah VA struck her and her Amish family. The family was driving to the store in their buggy when struck by Marine Corps veteran Brian Witkus.

Baby Ada Mae and her mom were thrown from the buggy by the impact. Ada Mae was crushed under the weight of her mother, who landed on her. Her autopsy listed the cause of death as “crush injury to the chest.”

Witkus was a known drug addict receiving treatment from Tomah VA and the now infamous psychiatrist named Dr. David Houlihan. Witkus hit the Miller family while stoned on painkillers and tranquilizers from the Tomah VA. He was convicted and served three years in prison following a conviction for homicide.

The death of Ada Mae is but one example of criminal conduct linked to harmful prescriptive practices at VA that gave rise to crimes such as drug dealing, vandalism, burglary and more. Local law enforcement knew men and women committing these crimes by the nicknames “Turtle,” “Airman,” “Black Mark” and “Detroit.” On the inside, these patients of the Tomah VA facility were known as “Houlihan’s Hooligans.”

The scope of the drug problem in the sleepy town of Tomah, Wisconsin is truly shocking. According to Glantz’s report:

“In recent years, hospital staff have discovered younger veterans stealing from elderly patients and others dealing VA-prescribed painkillers and shooting OxyContin and heroin on hospital grounds. Inside the hospital, VA police reports document the fallout: strung-out veterans tossing wheelchairs across rooms and a trash can out of a window, setting fire to magazines, wielding a meat cleaver.

“A search of Tomah police records by The Center for Investigative Reporting and the La Crosse Tribune found that employees at the Tomah VA had called 911 more than 2,000 times in the past five years, seeking local law enforcement help with cases of battery and burglary, an attempted kidnapping and 24 unexpected deaths.”

This report is a must read for any veteran advocate or veteran concerned about doping practices at Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation. Glantz covers the soup-to-nuts implications of the harmful practices at the Tomah VA facility and digs deep into the criminal underbelly of Tomah, Wisconsin.

READ IT: The death of baby Ada Mae and the tragic effects of addicted veterans

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18 Comments

  1. Not surprising, I have seen the same things happen at another VA. When I told the VA police officers started to harass me. There is a police report that I was never able to obtain. Police were called on me when one of the nurses aide I had heard talking about my husband. I reported her.Then I was ssupposed to have assaulted her with a door that swung into the day room when I walked in looking for my husband. I was told I had to talk to the police because I had assaulted someone. As I was trying to take my husband back to his room. The police kept trying to get me to stop and talk when I refused they wanted to put me out of the hospital. Then this same women had my dog that had been going into the hospital for almost 2 years stopped from visiting because she complained about the dog to her police friends. This woman was well connected and they would rather go after veterans then her and her friends. She would also have her boyfriend coming into the hospital around the elderly veterans. Not surprised at all. If you take it to the authorities, you are vilified plain and simple.

  2. I’ve never heard or seen anything like this at the VAMC I go to. The pharmacy always puts warning labels on medicines to not drive or operate machinery while taking the medicine, and there’s always a form enclosed giving a description about the medicine, what it’s prescribed to treat, its side effects, etc. Some of this going on at Tomah VA looks to me as though some of the veteran patients could be more culpable than the doctor is. I don’t know.

    • It takes an “enabler” to affect and keep such Veterans “hooked”, meaning the Dr. RX’g at Tomah, the Psych Dr., whom really should NOT be RXing pain meds, don’t you think? So in effect the Dr. is acting no less than the way a drug dealer operates and keeps them coming back…I am sorry, that Dr. or any VA Dr. should well-know there are drug addiction programs at VA and better yet, what should be a no-brainer and have already been in place all along, while in 10 yrs+ war now, better management of pain and CNS meds, and I am not talking cutting Vet’s meds…at all, meaning they should have both the DR and the patient also be part of a Patient Contract kind of thing for such controlled drugs…none of these things are in place…it’s an atrocity and really shameful because our USA is still in these logically unwinnable wars, and we are totally forgetting history and what we did to our Vietnam Vets…and still are.

      I see no reason to vilify the Veteran. Yes, that story was a tragedy, and total chain of event fall-out into the communities around the very VAMC’s so they really need to get their acts together because the injured and maimed physically and mentally are still returning on convalescence as if on a conveyor belt these days and we owe better treatment for our Veteran Community. We need to unify and declare ourselves a voting mass with no party affiliation…just a voting populace to be reckoned with, not much different in way political parties have historically preyed upon the vote of the highly influential Christian Vote…we need Unity of Veteran Voting Power…???!!

  3. There is an epic demic of drug use in these here United States and I believe that it does not help veterans if they are having problems with coping, when they get out of the service and if they go to the VA and do not get an apt. right away they feel as if no one cares and the Drug Dealers on the outside love nothing more that becoming their doctor and they prescribe the drugs, Meth, Herion, ect. and who knows what else. Many veterans with P.T.S.D. will turn to Alcohol to try and cope with their P.T.S.D., Alcohol is served in bars and in those bars is where they can be offered the other drugs and then the veteran is hooked and those drugs will not only hurt the veteran, but it hurts the entire family.

    When a veteran reports to the Hospital or clinic and requests help, they should been seen the same day by Medical and Psychiatry personnel for a evaluation. Since they are hooked on a street drug they may be seeking Drugs or just maybe they are asking for Help. Some times if the veteran goes in seeking help, they are scared and need someone to really listen to them. I was not treated for 40 years and I did drink to help me cope with my P.T.S.D., the VA refused to treat me, as I was not service connected for P.T.S.D. and I was unable to become service connected because the VA, stated told me they could not find my records that showed that I had been shot in the head. It took me 40 years to get someone to listen to me and I felt like no one cared

    When they finely did listen, I was able to attend the Alcohol and Drug program, Where a Doctor placed into my records Mr. ……, Is Not to be punished for his willful drinking as he was drinking to cope with his P.T.S.D. and I was also able to get treatment for P.T.S.D. through the Topeka Kansas VA, that program is # 1 in my book, they really did care and that was from the Janitor to the Chief of the service.

    It has been about 6 years that I have not touched a drop of liquior, I do not use pain killers. I have been told that I am a success story, The VA issued me a medicine called Naltrexone for Alcohol cravings, I take 1/2 tab daily and this with the treatment has set me free or the monkey off my back.

    I went to the Denver VA and seen veterans maybe 15 waiting to be seen for outpatient Drug treatment and I could see the dispear in their faces. Flash back as I had the same problem with alcohol.

    It is very important that when a veteran comes in for mental health treatment, that means they are fed up with the problems the drugs and alcohol are causing them and are asking someone for help. This is the time the VA has to take advantage and treat them NOW, not have them sit in the lobby hours to fill out paperwork and get enrolled and then the VA tell them they will have to return at a later time to be seen, as this only gives the Veteran time to fall deeper into the empty hole and they may never return, until they have hit rock bottom and when they do go back they are all messed up and they may act up, as they still have it in their head, what happened last time they were there.

    The DOD, needs to make sure that veterans whom seek care before getting out, are referred to the VA before their discharge, so it can be a smooth transition. Going to a hospital is scary, as you have no idea what to expect. They need to be advised of what treatments, they can try. Now some of the medication the VA uses to treat veterans seems to be very high doses, they had me bouncing off the walls, no kidding and they kept trying medication, and they finely got the right amount and I am doing great now. I wished I could have been treated 40 years ago maybe, I would have not had to suffer so much and maybe all the problems booze causes I would not had to endure.

    Bottom Line get the Veteran seen the same day they come in to check their mental status. The VA must remember the Veteran, came in for a reason. (HELP), Any person, not just veterans are using outside drugs and this country is going Down hill fast. It does not help when the VA, just dishes out more drugs, these veterans need to be followed closely, weekly apt to insure they are kept on the right path.

    All Veterans that get treatment must remember that when they get clean, they will still have or see problems with others as they were so concerned about themselves and now clean, the whole world is clearer and they will see that their are many problems still to deal with, but now they can see that it was not just him/her that has to problems. But now can say, its not just me and go on with their life.

    The VA could be a very good place, If the VA would stop trying to find fault with the veteran and just treat him, the less drugs the better for the veteran, their family and the country. But the VA must First listen. All veterans are not drug seekers, But can easely be made into one. It maybe easier to dish out Drug’s, that to really listen to the cry’s for help.

    The VA does not help the veteran when they attack them, by putting them down verbily or in written form. Their medical records.

    • @James–All good story and testimony.

      However, do realize that JUST because a person is needing to be on a pain medicine or say even Xanax for anxiety disorders/PTSD, it DOES NOT automatically mean everyone will or even is susceptible to abuse and addiction. I know I am not for one, one of those and being on both types of meds are actually quite necessary…not everyone is hard-wired to abuse nor have addictive personalities. I do not even drink…never has been a thing for me, and certainly do not seek out street drugs.

      I state this because you have to be careful and not blame the prescription drugs or even personify the streets, as if the streets are twisting every Veterans arm to take drugs…that is not the case. That remains a personal choice one makes…always.

      Glad you got yourself cleaned-up and with help from the VA. Nice to read a positive story about the VA…they are about as rare as hen’s teeth….for good reason.

      Just remember that the medicines are NOT the problem…it’s human choices. THAT VA Psych. Dr. at Tomah made choices that severely affected the lives of many Veterans and probably every Veteran currently going to that and many other VAMC’s are now suffering because of THAT Dr.’s mistakes…not the Veterans…that Dr. had to have known what he was doing. The physical signs of drug dependence and abuse is NOT that hard to spot. That means as well as that Psych. Dr. at Tomah. but anyone that also saw those Veterans there that worked there should also be run out of that VA and any gov’t. job for rest of their lives. THAT MANY people could NOT have missed the many physical signs…it’s not exactly rocket science.

      • nam, I too am one of those who need the meds as my treatment options are limited. I agree that it is just human nature and those who abuse this type of thing will do so and those who do not will have no problem. I have never had the abuse problem and I would report anyone who came up to me wanting me to sell my script. I will also say that those who have and/or are now dealing with the abuse problem and it is a result of their Dr., the prescribing person should be dealt with and it should be harsh. Those of use who need these meds should get them but those who are prescribed an amount that raises a question or has had a problem in the past, it should be dealt with and dealt with quickly to stop this type of problem.

  4. Close the Tomah VA, period. It is obvious that the employees as well as these losers are all guilty, shut it down!!! You do not punish veterans that need these medications over a few losers that shouldn’t have come back. SIMPLE SOLUTION FOR THE UNINTELLIGENT.

  5. If we think about who profits from the veterans being on the drugs and not getting the most needed help, we will also see the same people who profits from the wars the veterans are sent into. There is no difference in the profit margins and if we can understand that we will have the answer to all the bad things happening. We are used and used over and over again. Therefore, it is not taken seriously enough to treat and cure the veterans. Sad, sad, sad world and shame on the system.

    • You might want to ask Ryan Honl who profits from drug sales. According to his Blog he was a superstar manager of a large Pharmaceutical Company in Indiana before abandoning it to come to Tomah and complain about Pharmaceuticals. Hypocrit puppet.

      • You seriously have a problem with reading comprehension. Not only do you claim the article states Houlihan obtained Informed Consent for his weird theories on treating PTSD, but now you claim Honl’s blog shows he profits or profited from drug sales. I’ll save everyone the time of searching. His blog is right here: https://ryanhonl.blog.com/ if you read it, you would see he has been involved in ophthalmic pharmaceuticals sales for years.
        oph·thal·mic äfˈTHalmik,äpˈTHalmik
        adjective
        of or relating to the eye and its diseases.
        A quote for you from the linked article on Houlihan, from a psychiatrist: “Using amphetamines off-label for PTSD sounds strange, and that would be a controversial use of amphetamine,” said Andrew Kolodny, the Phoenix House medical officer. “I would hope that a physician engaging in a dangerous and questionable practice would be able to point to real evidence supporting that practice.”

        Is it all a conspiracy to go after Houlihan? If so, there are certainly a huge number of people involved in it, both inside and outside the VA.

        Houlihan’s research is a dangerous, self-fulfilling prophesy that unaware or ill-informed veterans should NOT be subjected to.

  6. Two things about the linked article. 1. The article said staff emailed Sec. McDonald. I would hope Glantz will submit a FOIA for those emails. It would be interesting to see when they were sent, If they were before this latest investigation. If they were, what action did he take? 2. Houlihan should never work in the medical field again. Its clear from the article he was conducting his own uncontrolled human medical research using medications that were not labeled for such treatment. One would think any VA medical provider or researcher would be upset over what Houlihan was doing. What a disgrace.

    • Of course, if you read the article, you would note that Proper Consent and institutional protocol was followed, because it explains that. Most VA’s conduct research in an effort to better serve the population. He was trained at Western Psych Institute at a time when it was considered a top residency placement.

      • Really? The article linked above within Ben’s post? It says no such thing about Informed Consent or institutional protocol, whatever that is. I have read many VA research proposals and finished, published, peer-reviewed papers. I would say I have never seen the researcher cite a paper they have written as a basis for conducting human research informally. If you read the news article, you would see he was citing his own theory to justify giving medication off-label, claiming the veterans did not respond to standard medical treatment.

        If you want to claim otherwise, why not cut and paste the paragraph from the article showing he obtained informed consent PRIOR TO giving them off-label medication.

  7. Witkus report says he was high on sniffing paint and engine starter. Doesn’t seem like something the VA would have prescribed. Don’t burden yourselves with the complete story. Irrespective it is a huge tragedy and I feel very sorry for that family.

    • Thanks for injecting some reason into the discussion. I was about to ask merely if Witkus used his prescribed meds as directed without unprescribed meds in his system. Your revelation makes that point moot. The obvious question for me is whether the doctors prescribing psychotropic or narcotic meds knew Witkus was an (apparent) out of control substance abuser? Or had he conned the medical personnel to think he took only what they gave him and as directed?

  8. Since we are discussing Houlihan’s unauthorized research, it’s interesting to see the paper he cites (his own) on PubMed.His entire research portfolio spans 6 projects dating from 2 in 1994, then nothing for 10 years until 2004 where his conclusion is: “It is vital that clinicians are aware of the potential for SS when psychotropic and nonpsychotropic agents are coadministered to certain patients, such as those with both depression and chronic pain.”

    Which is laughable given what he is accused of doing. It is noticeable that those he collaborated with on his earlier “research” are no longer listed as collaborators on anything after 1994.

    He then takes a break from 2004 until 2011, when he writes what is cited in the news article. His later listings on PubMed in 2011 and 2013 show no Abstract, so it is unclear what theories he was thinking of.

    So, was Houlihan in a research position at some time in the past? Was he in a research position from 2011 on? Do other clinicians or researchers agree with his practices?

    To summarize, he’s listed on PubMed for 6 citations. 2 are with other collaborators so it may have been legitimate research projects properly proposed, reviewed and authorized. Without more information, the other 4 look to be nothing more than him writing up his own clinical observations…as if he has a cure in search of a disease.

  9. I just read a newly published article in the Wausau Daily Herald Witkus situation is being blamed on Houlihan for the opiates he prescribed. What’s the real truth?

  10. Antipsychotic drugs another category of VA goodie-pills are responsible for the service-men suicides and death. According to Dr. Grace Jackson, the abuse of anti-psychotic drugs are the perfect crime. Say: PHX VA!

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