Tomah VA Opiate Prescriptions Skyrocket As Psychiatrist ‘Doped-Up’ Veterans

Doped up veterans

Benjamin KrauseOne Tomah VA psychiatrist earned the name “Candy Man” as he doped-up veterans on opiates while hospital staff reported seeing stoned veterans drooling in wait rooms.

Data shows the number of opiate prescriptions quintupled at the facility since 2004 even as the number of veterans treated at the facility declined. From 2004 to 2012, Tomah VA dispensed 50,000 oxycodone pills to approximately 25,000 veterans, and the total skyrocketed to 712,000 as the treatment population decreased.

Wouldn’t you like to know who was cashing the checks for the pills being dispensed? My guess is there is more to the story than merely excessive prescriptive practices. Was the facility conducting experiments on vets with opiates for big pharma research?

One West Point veteran, Ryan Honl, worked at the mental health facility and blew the whistle just prior to quitting. As a result, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) started pressing hard on the story. CIR uncovered an excessive drugging scheme while questioning current and former hospital staff including whistleblower Honl.

“Current and former hospital staff members describe patients who show up to appointments stoned on painkillers and muscle relaxants, doze off and drool during therapy sessions, and burn themselves with cigarettes. They told The Center for Investigative Reporting that Houlihan himself ‘doped up’ or ‘zombified’ their patients and that workers who raised questions have been punished.”

At the center of the growing scandal is psychiatrist David Houlihan whose doping practices led to him being given the nickname “Candy Man.” CIR reports that Houlihan has a checkered past of being a facility bully against concerns of his apparently excessive prescriptive practices.

During an interview with CIR, Houlihan cited this fact, “I’ve been investigated again and again and they’ve never found anything wrong.” Is it time VA addresses this overconfident Candy Man before more veterans are harmed?

According to CIR:

“In a June 2013 email obtained by CIR, Houlihan upbraided a physician assistant who had told two veterans that he planned to reduce their narcotic prescription load.

“‘I understand you may have issues with controlled medications. That is your issue,’ Houlihan wrote. ‘I take personal issue with you changing meds on my Veterans.’

“‘I expect this practice to stop immediately,’ he added.

“Houlihan brushed aside allegations that he has created a climate of fear or retaliated against employees who disagreed with his prescription practices.”

RELATED: VA Investigation Data FOIA Response On Questionable Prescriptive Practice Of Tomah VA Staffers



Unfortunately, VA was unable to stop the questionable prescriptive practice before numerous veterans and bystanders were harmed or killed:

“Two days before Jason Simcakoski died of an overdose in the Tomah VA psychiatric ward, the head of the unit, Dr. Ronda Davis, discussed his care with Houlihan.

“Simcakoski had checked himself in, citing an addiction to painkillers and severe anxiety that was destroying his relationship with his wife and 11-year-old daughter. The Marine Corps veteran’s medical record shows Houlihan advised Davis to add Suboxone to his existing cocktail of 14 drugs, which included antipsychotics, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and the opioid painkiller tramadol.

“‘They had my boy on so many meds that it blew my mind,’ said Simcakoski’s father, Marvin, a building contractor from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, who visited his son the day he died. ‘They like people to be zombies over there so they don’t have to care for them.’

“An autopsy report prepared by the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics declared the cause of death to be ‘mixed drug toxicity.'”

In a text message, Jason wrote the following before his death:

“This is where you need to start calling [Dr. Ronda] Davis. She didn’t come see me yesterday after I told her I’m so anxious, I’m going nutz mentally with all this [built] up inside me. I slept horrible last night. I toss and turned sweating all night. I wok up over a dozen times. Then at 4 I just stayed up, I couldn’t take it. I’m worse now than before I came in.”

Jason is just one of a number of veterans harmed by questionable health care provided by Tomah VA health care staff.

One indirect death was that of another veteran, Jacob Ward. Jacob died of an overdose following years of treatment at the Tomah VA mental health facility. He was being treated for PTSD after going AWOL in 2005. In the Army, Jacob was a cavalry scout and struggled with drugs and alcohol following an Iraq tour. Following years of “Houlihan Cocktails”, Jacob developed addictive appetites and last year overdosed on heroin and cocaine.

If nothing else, this death should have been a wake up call to Houlihan and similarly suited staff who touted excessive prescriptions of opiates to treat veterans, especially in light of the ongoing investigation.

The whistleblower, West Point alumni Ryan Honl, quit toward the end of last year, but not before he forwarded numerous emails directly to Secretary Robert McDonald. When he demanded a response, the Secretary wrote, “Thanks for your input. We take your concerns seriously and investigate.”

When will VA clamp down on questionable practices of VA doctors by enforcing its own ethics rules and standards? America is ready for heads to roll.

This is a great story, so be sure to read more about the CIR report here:


Psychiatrist David Houlihan was reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation following the publication of the CIR investigative report linked above. While no charges for criminal wrongdoing have been brought against Houlihan or other VA staff for the questionable prescriptive practice outlined above, insiders believe criminal charges will be brought against some of those involved in the near future.

The story is unfolding and we will follow up with additional updates:

1/15/15 – Another from CIR, VA sends investigators to Tomah VA, David Houlihan reassigned

1/16/15 – Article from Stevens Point Journal, Tomah VA wrongdoing betrays our veterans: Our View

1/20/15 VA was investigating prescriptive practices harming veterans at Tomah VA since at least 2011:

1/20/15 – Sen. Tammy Baldwin “sat” on VA OIG investigation report for months:

1/20/15 – Story of Marine who died from overmedication at Tomah VA:

1/24/15 Raw communications between Sen. Tammy Baldwin and VA executives about the VA OIG investigation: I ran this document through OCR so the PDF pages of the download are searchable.

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  1. “I heard it through the grapevine”….This week I was informed by a doctor that our narcotics will be cut off at Tomah this summer. Those in power want all of us old people dead. I won’t take this lying down. We all need to band together and get this shit corrected pronto. Don’t just sit there. SAY SOMETHING!!!

  2. A few evil people started something really bad here. To destroy another mans reputation and career,considering the circumstances, is almost beyond comprehension. Medicine is a practice. DR. Houlihan was the finest doctor I ever had the privilege to meet. His practice was helping many sick having a better life. Shame on any of you that had a hand in this outcome.

    1. I have to agree with you Dennis. What the veterans at Tomah are left with is a dismantled psych unit and nobody even gives a damn. Dr. Houlihan was the most outspoken person there who stood up for us.

      As for what this did to me as one of Dr. Houlihan ‘ s 128 patients? It’s left me with deeper scars and nobody to turn to. I’ve been dumped in a garbage bag and thrown out with the other veteran trash.

      I’ll be leaving my home state of Wisconsin soon. Hopefully near a VA MC that isn’t riddled with controversy and poor medical care.

      So much for that letter Tomah sent me over a year ago stating their care met the Obama care requirements and that they wanted to be my primary medical provider. HORSESHIT!

    2. Boohoo on you disgraces to the constitution you swore to (if you’re even a veteran). Houlihan murdered, doped up, and created a prescription drug ring and destroyed the lives of people trying to protect your asses of from your dope fix. You sick sons of bitches that used him to feed your addictions and sell it on the side can rot in hell too.

      1. Who are u to tell anyone how much physical pain they are to suffer????R u some sorta of psychic that can actually physical feel the physical pain of another??I highly doubt anyone has that capacity,,yet as a so-called human being u think its your place to tell others how much physical pain they are to suffer,,,last time I checked your thought process,your arrogance to even think u have some sorta of divine right to force others to suffer in agonizing physical pain is a psychotic tendency’s..When u feel comfort in allowing others forced endurement of physical pain via your grandeous comments shows a complete lack of empathy towards mankind,That u even think it is within your right to tell other ADULTS how much physical pain they are to suffer is AT THE VERY LEAST SHOWING YOUR INABILITY to show compassion,or emphathy,another psychotic personality trait…Stick w/the facts,,it is a fact that no-one can physical feel the physical pain of another..Thus as a society w/the goal of bettering are civil society,humane treatment towards all mankind should be the goal..Recognizing that it is a fact that no-one can physically feel the physical pain of another ,thus not your right to tell others how much they are to suffer is not your right!Your comments show that u think it is with-in your right as a adult to tell others how much physical pain they should suffer,,,, which is more barbaric and archaic,,thus NOT,,guiding towards a more humane,civilized society…but I am very curious as to why u think it is with in your right to tell other how much physical pain they are to suffer when it is a fact that no-one can physically feel the physical pain of another,,??

    3. Amen,,I stand w/u,,Mr.Dennis,,not only did they destroy his life,,they have destroyed 1000’s of others w/legitimate medical,physical reasons for there physical pain are now also suffering tortureous forced endurement of their physical; pain because now they can not get their needed MEDICINE TO LESSEN THAT PHYSICAL PAIN!!!,,sadly many have choosen death to stop their physical pain because they can no longer get their MEDICINE THAT USE TO LESSEN their physical pain..At what point do those lives matter???1 young man,,destroyed the care for 1000’s,,,,,,and as I send my condelscences to his parents,,,he was a man,,,not a child,,,fully responsibly for his OWN decisions!!!! They say there is no greater hurt then the loss of your child,,,however,,when does that child become a man??responsibly for his own decisions?Our law states 18,,,,this young man knew full well the meaning of life and death,,,,At what point do we honor that law,,and at what point do the lives of our veteran’s matter enough that choosing death now a days to stop the physical pain is no longer acceptable when their are medicines once available that worked just fine???We allow them,,, the very adult decision at a time of war to take a life,to use a fire arm responsibly because they are adults,,not children,,at what point do we honor the law and their ability to be responsbly for their own choice as to how they treat their own bodies..At what point does the press,the government officials,the so-called whistle blowers recognize that is was WRONG to jump on the ,”group think’ and propaganda band wagon that led to the forced endurement of physical pain for 10,000’s of our responsible ADULT veteran’s that is now killing 22 vets a day!!!!????because of 1 man!!Because it was wrong to kill the 95% of Adults who used their medicines lawfully and responsibly for the 1 percent who CHOOSED not to,,,

      1. Dr fixer was prescribing up to 800 oxy a month to some of you idiots. The fool was a psychiatrist but even an idiot like Houlihan knew that was enough for 10 patients with severe pain. He knew what he was doing. He knew that shit was being sold on the street. That’s easy math for a jury of his peers. They can decide whether or not his arrogant Napoleon sized ass will go to a prison cell with a 300 pound guy looking for some short love.

      2. Wow,,u were able to see patients actual private medical prescriptions???and medical history’s??how did u gain access to such private info to be able to factually confirm those number???Hmmm well of course that’s a lot of medicines, or is it u know that’s a lot of medicines,thus the lieful propaganda ,and in fact u NEVER gain access to people PRIVATE medical history to ever confirm such numbers,,but just threw those numbers out here to continue the lies???thus the propaganda that is now forceing our veteran’s to live in agonizing physical pain every minute of their day,,,wow,,u must think its soo grand to have the ability to decide who suffers in agonizing physical pain and who doesn’t thru your lieful propaganda eh???ie,illusions of grandeur,,,,,mary

  3. M – my name is Brandon Coleman. I am the Addiction Therapist / whistleblower from the Phoenix VA who testified before the United States Senate in DC on Sept 22.

    Look it up. I’m the one sitting next to Sean Kirkpatrick, brother of Chris Kirkpatrick as Sean cried trying to get through his strong testimony. In fact a couple times I reached over to grab his shoulder or rub his back letting Sean know we supported him.

    Your “Just say no” idea because these veterans are adults is about as misplaced and uneducated a statement as it was when Nancy Reagan said it during the 1980s.

    I also know in Tomah many of these veterans were being supplied with hundreds of opiate pills and yet when these vets would submit a urine drug screen they would come up clean for opiates. As an independently licensed provider that tells me these vets were selling their pills and a sort of drug trade was created at the Tomah VA.

    As a former Marine I fought for the right for all Americans to have free speech. Unfortuneately that includes off based uneducated comments like yours.

    I can tell you the same thing was happening in Phoenix and at VA’s around the country. If you ever make it out here to the worst VA hospital in the country I’ll show you myself.

    Its not rocket science and after your posts I’m quite sure you are not able to work for NASA.

    Brandon Coleman
    Addiction Therapist

  4. Now that Deb & Houlihan are gone there’s no one left to blame so the powers that be have shifted focus to the “drooling drug addicted vets that slob around the VA hoping for a fix” Except what about the vets like my husband who has been on the pain killer/Suboxone roller coaster for 4 yrs, has done PT, OT & every other bullshit, time wasting thing Tomah had ever asked him to do. Now he has a surgical recommendation for back surgery but Tomah won’t pay for it. Instead he received another fee basis approval for more useless PT. The surgeon the VA sent him to told him, with me as a witness, that cortisone shots, PT, chiropractor would all be a waste of time. Surgery is the only answer. The VA whose modo is “it’s our turn to serve” took away meds his body had become dependent on, all at once, refuses to return a phone call requesting info on what their plan is for his back, won’t pay for surgery, won’t prescribe any pain meds due to his past Suboxone script (which immediately put him in the drug seeker category) even tho he’s the one who walked into the Tomah VA & said “I don’t want to take these pills anymore” they cancelled his Oxy script & sent him on his way. 3 days later he was in the ER due to opiate withdrawals then subsequently put on Suboxone. Now he’s nothing but a loser addict with no end to his suffering in sight. His life has turned to shit, very much like the post deployment life he led, the life leading to a bullet to the head, but the only doc’s at Tomah who gave a shit have been defamed & “relocated” and the only doc’s left are too scared to help for fear of losing their jobs or they simply don’t care. Please tell me Ben, what should I do? I’m his caregiver, one who can’t help him. Our country trusted him enough to put a 50cal machine gun in his hands but can’t trust him to take his meds the way he’s supposed to. I’m very sorry these families have lost their loved ones, but it’s time to face facts & put the blame where it belongs. If those vets followed the directions on the bottle they’d be here today. If they made the choice to abuse their scripts that’s on them. You’d have to live under a rock to not know pain meds can be addictive, if their families were worried there’s many ways to handle that, besides pushing the blame off on someone else because it’s too hard to admit their child screwed up. Shit will change, believe me. Don’t wait for my husband to kill himself so that he’s no longer your problem, I won’t let that happen. The wife of a disabled vet is not only fearless, but fierce. I’m thru letting other vets issues ruin my vets life. he would have happily died to save any American citizen, it’s my turn to show him the same devotion. Look out Tomah, I’m pissed & I’m comin! He WILL get the care he deserves or this last “scandal” will seem like a bedtime story.

    1. Two problems here. 1). Deb and Dave are still VA employees and there’s a good chance they’ll go back to Tomah because the VA is incompetent

      2). Jason Simcakoski died in the inpatient psych unit under observation of mixed drug toxicity (read the investigation report).

      Direct your anger elsewhere. How about a broken VA system instead of blaming the dead?

      1. At any time as a grown MAN/ADULT he could of said NO,,,,,NO,,,, THIS MEDICINE MAKES ME FEEL BLAH BLAH BLAH,,,, don’t want to take it anymore,,,furthermore,,was he just admitted…within 2 hours of being out in the public drinking or mixing his medicines or was he in the hospital for 3 days ?????/or was he just aedmitted,,,furthermore again,,he was an Adult,,,not a child,,,,he could of said NO,,, at anypoint!!!!!!!!!but now 1000’s are paying for his incompetent use of his body,,,,1000’s are choosing death over endureing their physical pain,,,what about those people,,,torture ,,endureing physical pain is ok by u then???god help u,,,paita

      2. Sorry the narco gravy train isn’t working for you anymore M. Maybe you’re just pissed off like the other people who can’t pay for that house or boat without the extra side income. Me personally I’m glad I’m no longer funding Candyland as a taxpayer. Turning vets into addicts and drug dealers is a really great way of saying “thank you for your service.” I find your story very suspect. Friend of Deb or Dave? Job at the Tomah VA not working out for you now that they’re not there protecting incompetence? I don’t know. But when you reach the low point of attacking the dead it does make us wonder.

      3. Its painfully obvious from your reply your inability to show compassion for the very men/women who served this country honorably,who through no fault of their own got severly injured,and now when its time to serve them back,,people like u,make up truly psychotic delusions in their heads to justify their truly cruel,inhumane treatment towards your fellow mankind..Your inability to show compassion towards the injured,who,just like a diabetic need medicine to live a semi normal life,,need MEDICINE to lessen their physical pain from being injured serving this country..Not that its your business what so-ever,,i have never been to Tomah,,but again,your thoughts I am so how these people Deb or Dr.Houlihan shows your own psychotic delusion.Carma is a bitch,,and unlike you,,I do believe in a god,,,thus I believe I have a moral/humane entity to answer too,,thus I choose compassion over torture,,and cruelity,,unlike u,,,,Carma is a bitch,,hope to god u never have to feel the physical pain these men/women endure every second of there life,,,,but should it not hit u in this life,,,it will hit YOU in when its your time to die,,have fun seeing black for eternity..I asked u 2 simple questions,,and your delusions ,lack of compassion ,thus the true definition of a psychopath couldn’t even allow u to answer 2 simple question..Lets try again,,why do u think its ok for people to suffer in agonizing physical pain when their are MEDICINES that will aid in lessening there suffering??and who are you to tell others how much physical pain someone should suffer??m

      4. It’s karma not carma. And karma isn’t a Christian concept. When all else fails in an argument, the last stop is sending someone to hell using religion. Please keep the circus going M. At minimum it’s entertaining.

    2. Hmmmm,,for some reason my responds to Tiffany did not show -up..Now its been my experience when this happened the owner of the online group deletes them,,not sure this happen’d here…but Tiffany,,I am very very sorry for your cruel inhumane torture of your husband,,,,Forced endurement of physical pain by definition of the United Nations is torture…A bunch of us got together and wrote a formal complaint to the U.N..if u would like to read the formal complaint,then sign give me a email,,,[email protected],,m

      1. Tiffany,
        I am sorry that you are going through this. It is such a shame that the VAMC’s are being this way. I wish there was someway we all could make thing better. I too am dealing with the Indy VAMC and they are using only the Indy’s medical records for their decision to take away my pain meds. I have a very well documented history from the VA on my condition. I moved back to the IN after being in WA for 10 years. It has been a nightmare. I have become homeless, was not able to obtain employment and I was living in my van. I finally got into transitional housing for homeless veterans, was able to get the lowest dosage of pain medicine and got a job that I love. I will stop and state that I have tried all of the other medicines, physical therapy, injections, and surgery is not an option at this time. This job requires me to use my knees more than I should. It is not that hard of a job, it just involves using my knees. As a result, my pain increased. I tried to deal with it but it was too much and I asked for an increase. I am now at a third of what I was taking and it was working fine. that was my mistake. I am now labeled as “only wanting opioids to treat my pain”. The Indy VAMC refuses to look at my medical history from the Seattle. I am now unemployed as I cannot take the pain. I will also state that the transitional housing I am living in does random drug screens. I get tested at least once a month and I never know what day it will be. If I fail or refuse to give a sample, I will lose my housing. I will state that have not failed a single test.
        I am treated like a drug addict and I know I have no chance of being treated correctly and properly at this VAMC. I am stuck now as I will be forced to leave this housing as I cannot obtain employment.
        Those of you who think that every veteran and or civilian who take narcotic pain medicine is a drug addict, you are wrong. some of us need something to help with the pain. When options to treat this are limited, this is the best route of treatment. I do not want to be on this medicine but until I can get myself In a position to get out of the VAMC, I will be a worthless, homeless, tax burden. Are there veterans and/or civilians who abuse these? absolutely. Should those of us who have no other choice have to pay for their problem. No.


    All doctors that prescribe medication are issued a DEA number by the Drug Enforcement Agency. This DEA number helps the Drug Enforcement Agency monitor types and amounts of narcotic medicines a doctor prescribes. You will see this DEA number on all doctors written prescriptions. If the DEA feels a doctor is prescribing to many pain medicines the DEA will warn the doctor that they are over prescribing which if goes on unchecked inevitably leads to a revoking of the doctors license to practice medicine. Due to this DEA’s bullying style approach few if any doctors speak out against such demands if not out of sheer fear of losing their license to practice, then for taking the path of least resistance by requiring their patients to taper off their pain meds or quit them all together. This all occurs even though the patient has had legitimate pain and the medical documentation to support that fact along with the need to manage their pain through the use of pain medications. (Note: We have used the word, “bullying” because we know that the dosage of pain medicine a patient should be prescribed is for the doctor / patient relationship to determine, it is not the DEA’s position to manage a patients pain medicine dosage as is what appears to be happening indirectly in many cases.) Needless to say the doctor is bound from providing proper care to his patients, the patient is medically abused as a result and feels criminalized for asking for legitimate and rightful pain medicines.

    With the doctor incapable of telling the DEA where to stick it and the patient not being properly cared for this all places much unwanted strain upon the doctor/patient relationship and in more cases than not relations end with the patient seeking out a new doctor in hopes of finding no such trouble. But this too becomes a failure because less than six months into pain management with his new doctor the patient begins to witness the same thing take place. This time the patient understands clearly that he can no longer get the care that is needed from a system run by a bullying drug mob agency and so instead of going through this same cycle again the patient begins to get relief at the street level. It is at this moment that the perpetuation of war begins. For not only will the patient be susceptible to high health risks through dirty meds, he at times will have to risk guessing his dosage, coupled with the risk of arrest and subsequent incarceration for seeking medicine on the street. What is worst of all is that all the money that patient spends on the street is a direct funding of the Cartels, Terrorists, and ISIS’s. Hence we see how the current system delivers a mass pool of people hooked on irregular, dirty and risky drugs who are constantly funding the perpetuation of a war while at the same time keeping our prison systems over flowing, a multitude of families become completely wrecked as a result and all the while securing the dysfunctional public model that guarantees DEA job security and massive market growth through securing the illegal drug trade for ever more. What’s more is this is a direct sponsorship of such perverse organizations as the corrupt 3 letter agencies that we clearly can see feeds off their own.

    I am 70% combat disabled, have lost my physician of 18 years due to this bullshit, no longer have ANY health care let alone the care my government promised to me via the VA, an feel completely let down by my nation and people.

    The perpetuation of War, ensuring DEA job security, criminalizing the patient and the subsequent decapitation of the doctors ability to actually provide veterans with proper pain care.


    1. your comments are truth and perfect,,,but we have to find a way to fight back for all those who because of the d.e.a,. has choosen death as a means of stopping their physical pain,,The government owns stats state only 4 percent of the population uses their medicines unlawfully,,now exactly what ,”unlawful means,,when our own government is the unlawful ones,,,don’t know,,,I myself have wriiten the U.N,,,my next stop is the W.H.O.,,I pray u find physical relief for your physical pain,,,and thank u for serving our country,,,I only wish ,”our” country would serve u back,,my girlfriend who is a home health nurse,tells me everyday,,85 year olds can’t even get medicines now before they die to relieve there physical pains,,,its all torture,,forced endurement of physical pain is torture,,,,commited by our own government,,sickening,,our forefathers would be soooo proud,,NOTTTTT,,,paita

      1. Thank you for the kind comments, I appreciate the reaffirmation more than you may ever know. Love, Light and Power. Scott

    2. So here’s a good one. I’m rated 100 percent and was a patient of Dr Houlihan. I was having severe walking and back pain issues and was on pain meds prescribed by Dr. H. Along the way I was open minded in accepting the potential that severe stress could be a potential factor to the pain.

      I knew there was also a physical potential as I loaded millions of pounds of bulk and heavy cargo on Air Force aircraft. I’d even physically shown my primary care doc how I used my lower back and hips to jam cargo pallets into their locking positions. She agreed there was a likely link to my walking and pain issues.

      In the meanwhile, investigations start at Tomah, and I get an MRI. On my own, I did want off the increasing doses of pain meds so I could truly find out what my baseline was, as well as reset my body chemistry (I’m a fully college accredited AODA trained counselor and knew my true pain had the potential to be masked by the increasing doses to manage pain. )

      Once I was off pain meds, I found the pain was intolerable. My MRI comes back and I have lower back bulging discs, bone spurs, arthritis in my entire L and S regions, as well as pinched nerves and bursa issues. Wah-lah, definitely not a product of stress and now confirmed as a severe physical ailment.

      But in that exact time all hell is breaking loose at Tomah and the possibility of pain management is out of the question. I get a call from my primary care nurse who tells me my pain is in my head, and is followed by a message from my primary care doc that they don’t provide pain meds for my issue and to instead call the psych department for an anti-depressant.

      I asked the doc to read my MRI but that was out of the question. Tomah had an urgent need to reduce their pain prescriptions and I was on their chopping block. …no chronic pain management for me.

      I did receive a fee basis referral for a private doc to manage my pain. Hence began the epidural treatments and after an L5-S1 epidural, I now can walk for weeks afterward. The symptoms resurface as the shot wears off and the private doctor has repeatedly confirmed to me my back is a serious case. So, this private doctor is willing to give me small doses of pain pills, under his license, to get me from the point of where the epidural starts wearing off until the next one. It amounts to 30 to 60 5/325 hydrocodone/acetaminophen for the 6 week period. But now I can’t have those pills unless the primary care doc approves the specialists prescription.

      I already know nobody at Tomah is going to approve any chronic pain management and I’ve already had to make a call in anticipation of seeing the interim VA MC Tomah Chief on his patient open door policy.

      My God, this is the most dire circle jerk I’ve ever seen in a medical system. Not only is it a crime to over-medicate, but it’s just as much a crime to deny a veteran needed physical pain management of a verified severe ailment.

      1. Michelle, just wondering how you have been doing and if you managed to get anywhere positive with pain mgt.

  6. Pl.ease read the link below indicating studies how many pills veterans who have chronic pain require. The recommended dosage and studies of non-addiction in veterans with chronic pain side 100 percent with Dr. Houlihan’s prescribing practices, in fact, according to the studies approved the government, Dr. Houlihan was prescribing much less than the top recommended threshold.

    1. I knew it,,these IDIOTS who sit here w/absolutely NO KNOWLEDGE of medical standards,NO KNOWLEDGE OF ANY OF THESE VETERENS,,MAN/WOMEN WHO LITERALLY WOULD DIE for our country,,no knowledge of these patients illness,,the ARROGANT IGNORANCE of all who hold the poisen pensor the voice of propaganda,their initial lies are KILLING PEOPLE,legitiamite chronic pain patients have died do to loss of their meds,,,,, this is why someone who has absolutely no knowledge of medicine has NO BUSINESS making up lies about peoples health and wellbeing,,,stay out of my body,,,if 1 death comes of this pharmacists propaganda,or any poisen pens,,sue them for murder…if any vet find themselves now w/out their MEDICINES,,contact an attorney,,seriously and start suing anyone who has contributed to your loss of ,pain management,ie,,literal PAIN AND SUFFERRING!!!!!Everyone is watching this at the Tomah V.A,,,,all pain management Dr’s in Milwaukee,madison etc,,and started to drop patients because of this propaganda,,,hopefully now that the Dr’s..and his patients are fighting back,,and winning,,and RIGHTFULLY SO,,,the Dr.s will stop dropping patients who were doing just fine until this crap happen’d….Sadly in Flroida,,,they are dieing in record numbers,,it was 17 aday choosed death over endureing their physical pain,,the numbers have gone up to 45 a day choose self euthinization,,,,but hopefully thanks to vet,,and their Dr.s,,,these deaths will decrease,,,,THANK YOU VETERENS AGAIN,,AND THANK U, DR. HOULIHAN,for fighting for our freedom of diet and medicine,,, paita

      1. Any word how Dr.Houlihan is holding up??or how his patients are doing??I know when they went after the good doctor in W.V.,,,3 of his patients stopped their chronic PHYSICAL pain themselves sadly,,unable to get their medicines anymore,,I hope Dr.Houlihans patients,ie,,human beings fair better,,,in case u haven’t seen it,yet,,,petition to congress,chronic pain ,,,sign it if u haven’t already,,,thanks paita

  7. Any of you guys who want to help all of us in chronic pain please email me private,,,there is an chronic pain advocate who is for the use of all/any medicine to help all chronic pain patient..just like a diabetic needs insulin,,so does anyone who suffers physical pain needs there medicine,,This is no surprise to us,a 100 % increase from 2-1-2015 from 17 people a day choosing death over enduring thier physical pain,,as of today 2-5-2015,,it is now 45 people aday,,are choosing death over enduring thier physical pain ,,because of these ,”poisen pens of propaganda,”no-one can get there needed medicine anymore,,,,poisen pens,,,their death are on your hands literally,,and your hands alone,,,,,[email protected],,,,,ie,,,,,paita

  8. VA MANDATE START REDUCTION: My new script for oxycodones were normally for 224 count. This week my new script was for 196 count. That is a 12.5% reduction! I wonder how low they will go until I have no choice but to kill myself? It appears that the system has the doctors scared to write a legit script. I’ve been on pain meds over half of my life and I need them. Don’t dare call me an addict. I am a vet that would give up my life for this country. Now this witchhunt has affected most of us that have nothing to do with toma’s infighting. Give me liberty or give me death!

    1. Dennis,,I am sooo sorry,,there doing this to you,,its wrong all wrong,,I knew this was coming,,thank u ,”poisen pens of prpganda,,happy now,,now your actually killing chronic pain patients,,,and there abilty to live,,great work propagandeous,,u arrogant asses,,,if freaken carrots stopped m/our physical pain I would be eating them,,,its a matter of physical relief from physical pain,,not addiction,,,,I have spoke w/ a advocacy group in regards to the Tomah VA, that want to talk to anyone who had no issue’s w/the Tomah V.A. pain management and was helped by there pain managemnt team over there,,,if u know of anyone over there that can help w/this ,thus all the other chronic pain people please let me know,my private email is,,[email protected],,if you wish to get a hold of a painmanagemnt advocate,,,,sadly even though we fight every day to live whilst endure physical pain,we also now have to fight for our god given right for NO PAIN AND SUFFERERING,,Basically,,,not to be tortured everyday of our lives,,,paita

  9. Houlihan was only doing his job and very well I must say. Obviously he did too good of a job because now some anal idiots who have nothing better to do with there time except cause problems for vets whether direct or indirect it doesn’t matter you’ve brought negative attention to something that was needed and appropriate. These veterans are in pain what do you care about a dr. Prescribing painkillers to alleviate that pain. Get a life honl, its people like you who destroy others happiness and well being just because your pathetic life is so unbearable. I hate to be an asshole but you’ve really stirred up alot of shit honl and man does it Stink.

    1. Thank u nina,,I agree,,on the 1776 continental dollar,the 1st actual coin of America,,it stated,”mind your own business,”,,After 2 wars,baby boomers retireing,,a lot of them,,,idiots /inhumane so-called humans sitten behind some desk are using their poisen pens to literally KILL legitimate chronic physical pain patient..17 people A DAY down in Florida,,,17!!!!!!,,,are choosing death over forced endureing their physical pain for life with no medications,,,legitimate physical pain suffer’s cannot get their medicine anymore down there,,so they are choosing death,,over endureing their physical pain,,,THATS TERRIBLE,, inhumane,cruel,and un-empathetic,,,These poisen pens use propaganda with words like ,”abuse,” addiction,”,,”handed out like candy,” really,,these poisens pens are now causing the death of legitimate physical pain patients with their propagandeous poisen pens!!No-one,,NO-ONE has the moral/humane right to tell anyone how much anyone should suffer physical pain!!!and if they think they do have a right to tell anyone how much physical pain they should suffer,,,their sick in the head,,that amounts to torture,,When someone words or written words are causeing the physical sufferering of thousands it is paramount to forced torture,,which last time I checked is illegal in America,,last time I check,pain and suffering was a crime that is punishable by a lawsuit,, These poisen pens know nothing about these patient medical history,,,NOTHING,, yet they seem to feel their arrogance needs to promote propaganda about legitimate pain management patients,,,to the point now,,legitimate pain management patients cannot get any relief from the physical pain,,thus choose death over endureing that physical pain,,,Great job propaganda poisen pen machine,,these peoples death are on YOUR literal hands!,,

    2. Nina,,if u guys in Tomah want your Doctor back,and you want to keep your NEEDED medicine,,,do what Florida did,,,,stage a peaceful protest,,,,paita

    3. Nina,,if you want to help all of us physical chronic pain patients to KEEP our needed meds,,unlike Florida who is now facing epidemic numbers of 45 people a day choosing death as the only means of stopping their physical pain now,because of propaganda like this,,now no-one down in Florida ,legitimate chronic physical pain suffers can not get their needed medicine,,thus are choosing death over endureing their physical pain 1 more minute ,,,,these ,”poisen pens,” are now literally killing chronic pain suffer’s,,,don’t hear about these folks do we,,,Like Dick Trickle,,who also choosed death as a means of stoping his physical pain,,,terrible,,,but please reply if u want to help stop this epidemic now of chronic pain sufferers choosing death as the only way to stop their physical pain,,,,,paita

    4. Yes, Honl did stir up over-the-top accusations. My pain is being ignored and it’s unbearable. But thanks to the accusations, I sit here without pain meds now. Despite my pleas for a new script, nobody at the VA in Tomah will address my need to reduce pain. That is a crime. I personally blame Honl for whatever fixation he has on his handful of weeks at Tomah. He’s ruined more than just a reputation. He should be held accountable when the veterans who need pain medication who were cut off cold turkey opt for suicide to get away from severe pain.

      1. Omg,,,I am sooo sorry hun,,,I can tell u the law,,,is,,,,they have to provide you w/at least 8 weeks worth of meds till u can find a new Dr..also,,,do u as a veteran have access to an attorney??sadly more and more people are being forced into that decision,,,endure pain or end it ourselves,,,all because of arrogant IDIOTS, WHO THINK ITS THERE JOB TO TELL US HOW MUCH WE SHOULD SUFFER!!!!!! Good work propagandists,,,chalk another death up tp your stupidity,in-humanity,and arrogance,I hope u sleep well knowing your poisen pens have killed sooo many,,,,stay out of my body,,its none of your business,,,,paita

  10. I have laid on my kitchen floor crying and puking for months with horrid pain. To make a long story short, i have had back surgery and now am held together by screws. My neck and shoulder and knee also limits my daily happiness. Dr. Houilihan saved my life. Now I fear my meds will be taken away and I will have to suffer needlessly. My next appointment is mid March and I presume I will have a different doctor and no meds. I know that nobody gives a damn about our suffering. We vets that suffer need more doctors like dr. Houilihan,not less. The crybabies at toma va need to get a life and just do their jobs. I have seen staff scream when they have to fill a script by this doctor. Try becoming a doctor beore your ignorance gets you fired. And if I don’t get my meds I will become MAD AS HELL AND I WON’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.

    1. Thank u,,why is it,,although this death,and other like this death are tragic,,why is it NO-ONE,,NO-ONE,,,IS WRITTING THE TRUTH HERE???!!!This man who recently died,was an Adult, he DID NOT obviously follow his doctors orders,,he did not follow the prescription as his Dr.order,,,this man did this,as an adult,,,,no PILL,, did this,,why is no-one addressing that???Why is no-ne addressing the facts ,,we have had 2 wars,,the baby boomers are getting older and there is more of us,then any other generation,,there is going to be a rise in pain meds,and here is a huge elephant,,who is ANYONE to tell another humanbeing how much they should suffer their physical pain,,,who are u,, to tell this man how much he should suffer????by all newspapers propaganda they are forcing legitimate chronic physical pain suffer to endure physical pain that is helped w/a medicine, so what!!!!,,,If carrots gave chronic pain sufferers relief they’d eat them ,,but they DON’T,,,,true chronic pain suffer’s never ever get addicted to the pill,they get ,in your words,”addicted” to the physical relief of the physical pain,dahhh,,would anyone stand in front of a hot stove and put there hand on a hot burner????no of course not,,,,so why are all u telling others they should be forced to endure this physical pain from any condition that is causing it,,,it is NORMAL,, humane behavior to NOT WANT TO ENDURE PHYSICAL PAIN,,, that is normal,,so y is it sooooo terrible for peope to relief this physical pain w/medicines???and who is ANYONE to tell these poor soul how much their suppose to suffer,,,cause this is exactly what you are doing with your pen and paper everytime anyone writes a propagand piece against PAIN MANAGEMENT W/OPIATES,,, that is what pain med are suppose to do,,lessen physical pain,,why is it that is such a surprise???my biggest complaint is who is anyone to telll another ADULT humanbeing how much they are to suffer?????????17 people a day down in florida kill themselves everyday because it has gotten to bad down there for any true chronic pain suffer’s to get there meds,,they choosed death over continually endureing there physical pain,,what about those people,,its paramount to TORTURE,,AND WHO IS ANYONE TO DECIDE HOW MUCH A HUMANBEING IS SUPPOSE TO SUFFER,,, not me,,,,i am not that arrogant,,i have emphatthy,,,,paita

    2. Dr. Houlihan now has an attorney and is suing Honl for his big loud mouth all over the media and Internet. Honl challenged him to sue via his Facebook. Proves Honl is an idiot. Per Dr. Houlihan ‘ s lawyer, Honl is getting what he asked for. Honl ‘ s reply, “good luck, I work at goodwill and make $8 an hour. ” needless to say, Honl has passed the idiot test with flying colors.

      1. YES YES YES YES AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!!!!!!!I AM SOOO HAPPY TO SEE THIS NEWS,,Thank u for letting us all know,,,,he should sue the s,o.b,,,,he deserves it,,this ,”whistle blower,” is an arrogant a-hole,,who is literally killing people w/his propaganda,lies etc,,I will pass this along,,the Dr. who truly help chronic pain vets is fighting back and is now sueing the arrogant s.o.b,. who’s lies are causeing pain and suffering for thousands,death for others,,there is god!!!!!!!!!!!!!paita ,

      2. As my hubby saids,,some people got there head so far up there ass’s they have lost all oxygen to their brains,,,he is getting exactly what he deserves,,and THANK YOU to all vets who serve and THANK YOU to all vets w/chronic pain and refuse to suffer over arrogance and inhumane people,,These vets voice and FORCED suffering,ie,torture, is now going to hopefully SAVE,1000’S OF LIFES,, U tell Dr.H…keep up the fight to stop physical pain and suffering,,,make no mistake people,,it is a fight,,,and one that should be won for ALL compassionate,emphatetic humane people in physical pain,,,,THANK U ,,VETS,,AND Dr.Houlihan,,,,,paita

  11. I am a pharmacist who worked at the Tomah VA and I can say with no uncertainity that Dr. houlihan’s prescribing practices are outlandish. As brought up previously in the breaking story, why is a psychiatrist the leading prescriber of narcotic pain medications? The other piece that people need to be aware of, is that many many patients had negative urine drug screens, raising the concern for diversion, yet Dr. houlihan continued to prescribe or coerced the medical staff to continue to prescribe. The management at the Tomah VA needs to be replaced starting with a firing of Houlihan. It is VERY true that he created a toxic and hopeless work environment. I hope they resolve this quickly so my tax dollars are not supporting this evil man any longer.

    1. I find it funny how this is really a thing being talked about, chronic pain is nothing anyone wants to live with, and if these vets need this medication. Then by God give it to them. It’s what is available in the state. I think medical cannibus would be a better solution. As I have found I struggle with getting any pain relief from the Tomah VA as there are many others I know also in the same boat, so my pharmacist. Don’t question what Drs prescribe. Just fill them, because unless you live with chronic pain of any type then you have no idea what the effect of having no pain relief is like. As I now have had chronic pain for 3 years and have tried every non medication treatment available with no real improvement.

      1. Concerned veteran, as you can tell from this blog I have made a few comments on here about this. I just cam from my Ortho MRI reading and the Dr. told me that my knees are fine and that I had no need for any type of “that” kind of medicine. When I asked him about my past 10 yrs. of treatment from another VA that dealt with my service connected disability (knees) I was told that my past treatment did not matter and he was evaluating me now. When I told him that when I was taking the low dose of the narcotic pain med I was able to have a job, have a life , have some enjoyment, and mainly have less pain that I could deal with. He told me that “whoever took you off of those pills was the best thing that could have happened. I said so by me taking them and having a job, a life, some enjoyment, less pain, and be able to do things was worse than now not being able to do anything because my pain is a 12 out of 10? He told me he was not going to argue with me and I said I am not arguing, I am asking questions as to why you seem to think that me not being able to have a life and now I am homeless because I can’t get a job is better than being able to do those things. He repeated what he said and walked out of the room. Our appointment was over.
        After talking with the Patient Advocate and those above her, I was told that because they do not show anything in the MRI and on the X-rays that I would never get the treatment I think I need. The past VA records will not be looked at and that is it.
        I am now planning to move back to WA and live in my vehicle to get the pain relief I need or I stay here and turn to street drugs which is something I said I would never do. I have followed everything they have asked to the letter only to be lied to. I hate the VA so much and there is no one that can help in this because of it dealing with a narcotic pain medicine for my chronic pain and everyone at the VA is scared sh*tless because of it. Thank you DEA for screwing those of us who now have nowhere to turn and have to live in pain. How fair is that. Even in the “Patient Bill of Rights” it clearly states that your pain will be addressed and will be taken care of. NOT!

    2. First and formost. I feel for all my veteran brothers who live with chronic pain of a type and of whom have probably been harassed by the BF whistleblower. And now having a hard time getting the relief they so deserve. I have been living with chronic pain for years now. And honestly have had no improvements by the non medication treatments available. And have been givin garbage meds to try and deal with the pain that I live with. As I cannot function as I did before this pain started, and I miss a lot of sleep “example” it’s early morning and I lay here in pain because the tylonal that is given to me is doing nothing more then what a sugar pill would do besides doing damage to the liver and that’s the truth. I have tried everything available to me at the Tomah VA and still am not given the option of a good pain relief program. Unfortunetly there have been deaths involved in this which makes it look worse. If a veteran is in pain and needs these medications then there should be no questioning from a pharmacist besides asking how many and when they need to be sent out. As they are not the ones who will be using them. The vet in pain will be using them. I have come to find out that like in my case it’s so hard to get a pain medication that will actually make my life easier to maneuver and do so with a pain level of 8 that I have lived with for years now. Now with this crap going on from a whistleblower whom mr West Point non grunt working man. Is gonna make it even harder for people who have legitimate pain to get there meds to actually function. As I have legitimate pain issues from my MRI RESULTS. And have went threw all options available. But am given tylonal to treat a pain level of 8, which is unexceptable. And of course if one asks for a medication they are looked at like a pill seeker. When really all they want to do is function and live there lives the best they can with what the cards have been dealt to them. Iv never asked for a specific medication. Because as I said before. There are many PAs at the VA in Tomah who look at them as pill seekers. When they are in legitimate pain. I really hope this passes and mr honl,I really think you are a very big jackass. For this and for making blowing this out of proportion. This is like saying spoons make people fat, your going to ruin a lot of vets who function on these meds just fine. By making it harder for them/I to get the proper relief we deserve. Your the 1percent from the Tomah VA who should be striped of being able to be a so called pharmacist from anywhere by questioning the prescribing of meds for people who really would be couch potatoes because they live with much pain. And I feel for the vets whom have died due to toxic mixtures. But which of the toxic mixture was the true causes. Do you know. Are you a master of autopsy also and can you determine that. As I lay here with my pain level an 8 with just a bottle of tylonal. Not being able to fall asleep because the pain is unmanageable I’ll know who and why I am not given the option and the right options to an actual relieving medication. And the many other vets who are in the same boat

      1. I am right there with you brother. I was fine for the two and a half yrs. that I was on the chronic pain med. Help a job in which I was on my feet most of the day, worked 40 – 50 hrs. a week, was still able to go home and get things done that I needed to, have some enjoyment in doing recreational things (hiking, camping, going to Seattle and visiting the sights and the Seahawks, climb ladders to get on the roof to clean the gutters, ETC…) and now, same thing, I lay in bed and get maybe two hrs. of sleep a night, curse the morning when I get up, have to wear my metal knee braces almost 24/7 and have to live with a pain level of 12 out of 10. How is this better?
        I as well have tried all of the other options available and nothing helped and now I am only allowed to take Tylenol, nothing higher than that and it does no good. I can feel your pain, literally. I feel sorry that you as well as most of us can’t get what we actually need and are treated like druggies. I don’t know what we can do to correct this. So many of us were functioning able bodied vets who were able to live with the reduced pain and it was at a more manageable level and now there are a lot of ticked off vets who have no way to get the pain relief they need and have nowhere to turn. Ben need to take some type of survey to see how many of us when we were being treated correctly and properly and how we are now without having the only thing that was the only choice that allowed us to have a life and be a functioning part of society. I bet it would be a very interesting thing.

    3. Shay you said it right. It’s a conspiracy from a pharmacist poking his nose into something that really he should not have,

  12. You know what angers me about this story? A few situations and people make it worse for Veterans like me because of this crap. Today I was at the V/A to get a script renewal for my Tramadol, one of a few different meds I use for my military injuries. Personally, I only take the heavier meds when pain is at a level I just cannot take. But I use Tramadol on a daily basis as a moderate pain control med. Without it I might as well …. stay in bed.

    And now recently because of bullshit like this, Tramadol has also been now added to the hard line drug list of controlled substances AND the V/A is now going overboard because doctors are becoming more and more scared of prescribing even this to someone that uses it.

    I went through the ringer today all because of this. I have been on it for a couple years now after a lot of trial and error to find something that would work for me in a manner that at least allowed me to have a functional normal day on it without being hopped up or so addicted I could not go any length of time without it.

    Stories like this are just going to ramp this up even more for many of us Veterans. And for those of you that think this is all a good thing, bite me because you obviously have not been through or experienced what many of us now live with every single day.

    While I do not like having to use any meds period, at least I am now able to have some relief of the pain levels I did have. Instead of having a 10+ on the scale every day now I live with and get by with an average of 5-6 on the scale. And while that is still a lot of pain, I can deal and I do.

    Making it harder for us just because of a few that are full on addicts pisses me off to no end because now the rest of us have to go through even more bullshit because of it.

    1. Malakie, before I moved to my new VAMC, I was taking a chronic pain medicine and held a job in which I worked 50 hours most weeks. Yes I was on the meds and the company I worked for knew about it as I was up front with them from the urine test I had to take to get hired. I had no problems working for this company while taking this med. Without it, I would not have made it through a day. So which is worse, taking a low dose of a chronic pain medicine and be able to work 40 – 50 hours a week with less pain and yes I was on my feet most of the day. Or having the medicine taken away and not being able to work at all and maybe become a welfare case. I am fighting so hard to get back my med so I can get a job an not become a welfare case. I know how you feel Malakie due to this new VA taking away my med I am now not able to do anything but try to make it through the day. I also live on the third floor of an apartment building with no elevator, only stairs. The fun never stops.
      I am the same on your pain scale rating. Without the med 9.75 to 10 and sometimes more than a 10. With the med, around a 6. Manageable with, unreal without.

  13. I just have one more thing to say on the subject,DEA has dictated to VA & Civillian Drs to stop prescribing opiates the made Hydro-condone a schedule 2 narcotic ,if you watch Nat Geo Heroin is running rampant in every small town USA .Who should we blame for this ,seems as though someone might take a good look at themselves before they slam our Drs @ the VA ,also what do you think some are going to do when they are just ripped of there Meds They self medicate Alcohol or Drugs This goes so much deeper than anyone wants to admit ,with all the suicides I think in 2013 in our Region we had 1200 + suicides in our Area alone I Beleive it was 84 .All I know is one is to many.I pray for my fellow Veterans and there family’s & I Beleive it is our responsablilty to look out for each other as we were taught.And that’s all I have to say about that Thank you

  14. I have some input on this Subject ,Having been in the VA healthcare system for many years ,I have had the opportunity ,to meet a number of Drs ,I was on a team that saw 5 Drs roll in & out in around 3 years ,but let me back up & start from the beginning ,when I was in the service I was performing Preventive maintaince on my Duece and half I was going to add either oil or antifreeze ,not important ,but to do it required me to crawl up front bumper as I was going up with can in one hand. I lost my footing and landed on my head ,I was taken to TMC ,and I went back 4or 5 times they came to the conclusion I was Malinguring and said if I came back I would be wrote up Article 15 so out of fear I did not,After I ETS they came out with the MRI long story short they said my spine looked like I was in a wreck ,I have had one surgery on my neck ACD5-6-7 with fusion and titanium plate ,I aso have C3-4 that they want to take out & replace 2 metal rods & fuse. That is the top part in my lower L4-5 I have a 10 mm fragment causing nerve impingement and my sciatic is constantly locked very painful,So on to the Story at hand about Pain Meds as I stated I have had over 5 Drs in 3 years .When I started out on my pain Meds it was a slow progression my Dr would talk to me and observe and include me in on my treatment ,I told him I did not want any more Metal in my body ,& I have been waiting for technology to catch up. Laser -Spine Surgery. But it is so very expensive .I guess what I am trying to get at is this,there are some very good Drs @ the VA. And it is not the Drs fault if there are people coming in as you say Drooling which I have never seen once yes there are people who do have a need for pain Meds and then there are those who abuse or flat out sale them,I have met some of these people and I get mad because they make it hard for those who truely have a need.i signed pain contract have never lost them or called them in early I lock them up.What I don’t get is this our Drs go to school for 8 years @ least to get a medical degree How can Some agency such as DEA or FDA come in and dictate to our VA Drs how to practice Medicine ? This also relates to why we can’t keep good Drs Around they have them Afraid to practice there profession,one Dr told me he makes as much as a New York bus driver .thats not right ,We cannot keep blaming the VA for every thing or we won’t have any that will stay

    1. An ISIS terrorist, a serial killer, and the mastermind behind the World Trade Center attacks are sitting at the bar across the street from the Phoenix VA hospital. They’re sitting there trading food stamps for explosives and stolen military I’D. Just then, a disabled homeless veteran limps in to ask for a glass of water. The ISIS terrorist turns to the serial killer and says, “Hey, what’s a disabled veteran doing in here? ” The 9/11 mastermind says, “Don’t worry, those VA doctors sitting over there will throw him out.”

  15. Ryan, we appreciate your character in coming forward. This was part of my concern with the lack of punishment for VHA staff. “If you lack the moral courage to put right before self-interests, you should not be working in the government.

    One of the main issues here, which I have not seen discussed, is the credentialing and accrediting of physicians, and what is commonly known in physician circles as privileging. No amount of bullying can take place if the majority of physicians, and especially the Chief Medical Officer has a smidgeon of ethics. So I place blame on the medical staff at most VHA CBOCs and VAMCs. It becomes totally intolerable when executives at VACO in the VHA and VISNs look the other way, or lie to cover up for poor healthcare (such as Robert Petzel). In my mind they should be castrated or worse.

    Figure8: I am 360% disabled (paid at 100%), partially due to a 1973 accident in Thailand, where I was run over by a baht bus (small Datsun type). I have bone on bone interior laxity of the knee, four bulging discs (DDD/DJD) in my lower lumbar spine and two bulging discs in my cervical spine. I’ve been on pain pills since then. As a recovering addict, sober for 32 years, I can say this. If you do not want to take the pills you’re prescribed, stop taking them. I know about the pain. But I also know about the addiction. I never abuse the medications I am prescribed. And I refuse to sit on a couch, no matter what. I’ve fought through dying on the table twice, so if I can, so can you.

  16. It’s exactly what the VA (and of course their C&P dept) wants: KILL OUR BRAIN
    Stay away from this shit brothers and sisters. Stay alert and keep fighting! They tried many times to put me on “…codones) All these shit ended up thrown away

    1. Vassilis, I’m glad you took charge or your healthcare. It is a travesty that one of the veterans who died in the article was on 14 meds, some narcotics, and then put on a 15th one which resulted in “mixed drug toxicity” as stated in the University of Wisconsin autopsy report. For veterans like that, they are so doped up and out of their minds they couldn’t possible take charge of their healthcare. There are at least a couple grieving families in Wisconson who asked the Tomah VA leadership about what happened with their sons and were essentially brushed aside. See their comments in the article.

      1. Ryan Honl, or anyone here, have you ever heard of any military or VA deaths like this: a military doctor during an in-patient interview, debriefing or interrogation, or torture, whatever you want to call it does this: you have a high security clearance because of your MOS. A series of disasters involving your duties and mission unfold over a period of several months. There are major breaches in security of classified things. You experience extreme retaliation for reporting it to your superiors but some of them are involved and others are apathetic or afraid to do anything to stop the problems. During drugged hypnosis you are told by a military psychiatrist to commit suicide because that is what you should do to stop the breaches and risks you have become because you know what is going on. You are shown horrifying photos of people who have obviously killed themselves by various means, and actual physical things are done to you that clearly are torture. This goes on for months. JAG intervenes somehow and it is stopped, but drags on and on for years, actually decades; it started at the end of the Nam war. There is a lot more to it than that, but finally, after years of terror from the VA and government agencies, never-ending retaliation and devastating damage, a VA doctor does an internet search in front of you and your wife, using the name of one of the military doctors who did this to you. He actually easily finds the guy and is interested, and then shows you and your wife where this guy is from, as in what country he went to medical school. This doctor then proceeds to help you and file paperwork so you will get a form of special help from the VA relative to this. Anyway, has anyone, you Ryan, or anyone else, ever heard of anything like this? It has been said that art imitates life, and this kind of stuff is sometimes seen in movies or books in the form of fiction, so you get the feeling that this stuff must actually happen on a fairly regular basis in real life, but gets swept under the rug almost always. Any ideas on why and how this could happen to a US Marine? How could this sort of thing be justified? This particular Marine we are talking about was told early in his military career that he was getting his wish, after he had gone through months of interviews, testing and training, to work in a certain field of intelligence in a certain program that was very complex and that he would never understand how the whole thing works. They certainly were not kidding on that. Anything? P.S. Secretary McDonald and my Congressman and a VSO and his office have all taken a keen interest in this case. Did I say this is about me? If so, I will say it is not. Let’s say it is not about me, please. Thanks.

  17. This is Ryan Honl. I am a lifelong DVA member and also the one referenced in the articles as the whistelblower. There is in fact much much much more to this story. It leads right into the halls of Congress and the top doctor in the VA OIG, John Daigh, covering for the Tomah VAMC. I will be working with Concerned Veterans of America to introduce a bill to Congress called the Simcikoski Ward VA Acountability Act. Anyone, vets or the general public, media, etc, may contact me directly on my cell phone at 219.379.7621. Best to just send me a text message since I’m swamped with voicemail. I’ll get back to everyone with at least an acknowledgment that I received the text, but won’t be able to answer most voicemails. But probably the best way overall to contact me is through email at [email protected] – I have a 46 page pdf of all the details and background on what happened. Three Accolades I must put out in punlic are: 1) To not call for the ouster of Secretary Robert McDonald. He cares, but doesn’t have all the tools to fight the battle to change the VA. If it weren’t for him publicly publishing his cell phone number I would never had the courage to fight this battle. 2) Without Tal Coley at Concerned Veterans of America I would never have read Aaron Glantz article in one of their morning FRAGO emails. 3) last but actually most important is Aaron Glantz. He is literally the only man in this entire country who listened to me after giving up hope and being just another statistic of an employee leaving the VA with a tarnished reputation after being retaliated against. I am honored to serve the nation and veterans. Duty Honor Country

    1. Ron, I am interested in your thoughts of those of us (like me) who do need these meds (due to limited options on treatment) and now because of things like this they are being taken away. I am not stating that you have done anything wrong or anything like that. I am asking for your take on do you think that these types of meds have a place for those who do need then due to the limitations on the treatment options available. If this (the overprescribing) has been happening I am glad that it is brought to light; however, this is a double edge sword because even though it is wrong to overprescribe it is also wrong to under prescribe or not to prescribe out of the prescribing Dr. being afraid he is going to be held responsible even though the patient has a legitimate and necessary need for these types of meds. Just curious. Thanks.

      1. figure8fan, thanks for the comment. I am not a clinician so I can’t comment on the opiate problems at Tomah VAMC so clinicians who are independent outside of the Tomah VAMC can share their opinions on the appropriateness of Dr Houlihan’s prescribing practices. There are a couple referenced in Aaron Glantz’ article. God bless and thanks for your service.

      2. Ryan, thank you for your service as well. I did not know if you actually could tell a difference in the one getting the proper treatment and the others that were over prescribed. I knew you were not a Dr. and I was not looking for that professional opinion, just your thoughts. That’s OK, I am OK with your response and we will call it good on that part. Thank you again for the reply

      3. Thanks for the comment figure8. I was far from a clinician, just the mental health secretary supporting the clinicians for only two months. However, a slew of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other administrators that were despondent over what was going on behind the scenes, out of the view of the veterans, especially after I publicly blew the whistle. I felt it a moral obligation to support them because I felt their concerns needed to be taken seriously and not shoved under the rug. I had so many cooworkers coming out of the woodwork with concerns about Dr Houlihan and a few other employees so I included that in my complaint, although I clearly stated I did not directly witness those complaints. What I witnessed personally and first hand were the non-clinical actions among the administration on the part of a handful of people in the facility. Download my documents and it will give everyone the gory details.

  18. I can’t believe someone can tell a story about the VA hospital in Tomah like the one I just rtead and that someone still has a job.
    I have been treated there for over 20 years. I’ve seen good Doctors and I’ve seen Doctors I wouldn’t want treating my dog.
    99% of the staff there are committed to doing a good job and providing quality healthcare. This opiate conspiracy these guys are are talking about is news to me. The DEA has very strict guidelines regarding these medications and I would take those stories about them with a grain of salt. This complaint about being “doped up and put in corner so the staff doesn’t have to treat them”, is the same story I’ve heard about the VA since before Viet Nam. The guys saying that are probably unhappy about their individual situations. And most of the guys I saw there were “doped up” on psychotropic drugs, not opiates.
    I can’t speak to that Doctors’ situation but I will say that the Tomah VA has always been there for me, to help me with things a civilian Doctor wouldn’t have a clue about. My caregivers and their staffs are considerate, caring, and first class professionals. I don’t appreciate ANYONE talking trash about them. Send that investigator over to me and have him ask me for some facts as I know them to be. The VA staff doesn’t deserve a label like that.

    A disgruntled Marine,

    1. Shay, employees like Dr Houlihan still have a job because of the failures of the Merit Systems Protection Board that protects senior leaders in government in general. It is a public misperception that federal employees can’t get fired. They can and do get fired daily across the VA, but they’re not the leaders. They are the folks on the front lines at the VA working hard to care for vets everyday. I know this personally as a disabled vet who has gotten care at the VA. I was medically discharged with a psych diagnosis and my psychiatrist, Dr Fadel Shaaban, and my psychologist, Dr Paulette Stronzek, at the Crown Point Indiana CBOC are examples. I would have committed suicide long ago if it weren’t for them. An example of the failings of the MSPB system is Sharon Helman, former director at the Phoenix VAMC. The MSPB would have been placed her back into her position watching over the deaths of veterans if she hadn’t gotten terminated over taking money from a lobbyist. As it so happens, she started her career at the Tomah VAMC working alongside many of the people I reported.

      1. Ryan honl. Honestly to let vets suffer in pain. I hope you suffer someway, I don’t mean that negatively either. But that’s exactly what you started. Is letting vets suffer in chronic pain. When there livelyhood was in a medication so they could function.

      2. Number one, it’s not about taking away pain medication. It’s about taking it away from the Houlihans out there that put a Marine like Jason Simcacoski on 14 powerful drugs and then a 15th one that killed him. So before Houlihan’s addicts sing his praises, just remember Jason Simcakoski and the trail of destruction a man like David Houlihan leaves behind. Of course there are patients out there that love the Candy Man. He takes away their pain until it kills them.

      3. Ryan, I have a service connected disability in which my options are and have been very limited. I have tried all their (VA) options but the knee replacement (the VA refused to do that) with no luck. My only option to have a life is a chronic pain medicine. I have taken this for two and a half years. In that time I held a job working 40 – 50 hrs. a week on my feet. I was able to have some enjoyment in life. I was able to do things. I had much less pain. I had a life and was being a part of society. I never asked for an increase, ran out sooner than I should have, was urine tested (random that I agreed to and that I had to take off of work. Work understood and allowed it) and had no problems. things were looking up. The treatment worked.

        Now, my medicine has been taken away from me, I am homeless, I can’t get a job, I have no quality of life, I have no life, I can’t do the things I used to. I feel worthless and a welfare case.

        How is it better to take away the meds from those who need them and have no other option to relieve that pain. How is it better to make that vet a homeless vet now that he can’t get a job, how is it better that the vet can no longer enjoy life and curses everyday? Yes that is my life in a nutshell. how do I get out of it? I have no idea. I have tried to will the pain away, Tylenol, creams, you name it I have tried it. I need my chronic pain med back or I will be one of those vets you see on the corner begging for change. No I am not whining, I am simply explaining that some of us need these to have a functioning life and we are not addicts, abusers, or anything like that. We were normal taxpaying citizens that are no longer that.

      4. Best Advice I can give you is to see a competent pain specialist, not a psycho like houlihan. Turning vets who are in pain into addicts isn’t helping them.

      5. Ryan, the VA will not let me see a pain specialist again. I went to Chronic Pain Management classes at the VA and they prescribed the med that gave me back my life. Now they take it a way with no substitute. This is at a different VAMC so you see it not just at one. All of them are now afraid to do what is right. If you don’t have chronic pain you will never understand.

      6. My only point is that those who raise concerns within the VA are not the problem as to vets in pain. It’s the David Houlihans out there and their incompentence and recklessness that caused the problems.

    2. And you are 100% right Shay. 99 percent of the employees at the Tomah VAMC are wonderful people. It just so happens that the other 1% are creating an environment of fear and intimidation through the retaliation and great doctors, nurses, and other staff have left the facility to take their services elsewhere. That is a travesty. It was not Aaron’s intent to back the Tomah VA. It was to expose a terrible environment for the employees who have raised concerns for years. Thanks for stating the fact that almost all of the employees at the Tomah VAMC care for veterans to a very high degree. The record needs to be set straight on this, I agree.

      1. Correction: It was not Aaron’s intent to bash Tomah, not “back” as I erroniously commented.

      2. the fact is, you started something that in a way is as crazy as prohibition of medical cannibus, they derive most opoid pain meds from a plant, which has been used 100s of years, for the use in many ways, you can get addicted to ANYTHING, tv,food,sex, pretty much anything, now I don’t agree with all the mental health drugs given out that have been around decades, and really have no place in pain management. As I have and I’m sure many others are being offered an anti depressant for chronic pain, they don’t know how it works, or if it even works on people in the first place. I am not one of holihans patients. And by no means am praising him. But the ripple effect it’s causing on soooo many more people is where I have the problem. That’s where I have a huge problem. Like has been said before, If you don’t know what chronic pain is like. And being in there early 20s and not having any releif from chronic pain and having to deal with it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 22 a day jump up to a higher level. That’s my problem with all of this. Your just a disgrace

    3. Shay, why do you feel you need to defend the VA? Just asking, and I am a former Marine too. Just because some or even most VA workers at a location are supposedly doing a good job does not mean some maniac is not shafting vets by the hundreds.

  19. It’s things like this that hurt those of us who have to take a narcotic pain med for our chronic pain as our options are limited for our disabilities. Mine, Chondromalaicia Patella/Patella femoral pain syndrome/Arthritis and a couple of other things wrong with my knees. I have limited options for this condition. Replace my knees (not a candidate at this time), physical therapy (done daily), injections in the knees (had cortisone and simvisc) and chronic pain medicine. I was on chronic pain meds as that and the therapy was helping my knees allow me to have a job, enjoy the day, have a life (I love the outdoors and anything related to the outdoors like hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, ETC..) and then I moved to another VAMC. WOW, this VAMC is so scared to prescribe narcotics that mine were immediately taken away and I have been in a three month fight to get them back. They are offering Tylenol and will go no higher. Yes, I don’t like to have to take a narcotic pain medicine; however, they were helping and allowed me to have a life. I now have nothing but pain that I have to deal with everyday. Pain that no one should ever have to deal with and not get relief from it.
    Stories like this just make it easier for the DEA and other groups to tighten a medicine that some of us need so bad. I have NEVER abused, misused, ran out early, repeatedly asked for an increase, sold, or anything else that would state I am a junkie or an abuser. It may be said I am addicted to this medicine; however, I feel as if the low dose I take is not an addiction but a form of treatment that is successful to treat my pain that is in the “Patients Bill of Rights”. I know this medicine is not the only part of my treatment plan but a part of the whole picture of my treatment plan. By taking this medicine, I am able to get through the day with less pain, I was able to be employed, have a life. All of these (and some others) kept me moving and was more beneficial for my health. Some day down the road it is most likely that my knees will get to the point that the will need to be replaces and then I will be able to get off of this medicine that I have been on for two years (with no increase) Now with my pain level, it is hard to go up and down the six flights of stairs to my apartment (10 steps per flight). Will I ever get back to having a life, not with things like this happening. Stories like this hurt those uf us who need these medicines to have a somewhat normal life and it is so unfair. Stories like this make Dr’s more afraid to prescribe the correct medicines and then again those who need them suffer. It is so unfair that a few bad apples hurt the legitimate people who because of some treatment limitations need these. We are not junkies or abusers, we are patients who deserve to be treated correctly and properly. I don’t feel that it is necessary, but I would be willing to do what is needed to show that I am taking and following the medicine I was prescribed and not abusing them so I could have my life back. It is worth it to me that much. Those of you who do not have to deal with what I and other have to deal with daily can say the we are junkies, druggies, abusers, ETC… and I offer this to those who do. Trade places with me for a few days and see things through my eyes and through my life without them. You will change your mind.

      1. Kevin, Yes I know that this is of a Dr. who is exposing overprescribing of narcotic pain meds; however, I was explaining that there are some of us to which are plan of treatment is very limited in what can be done. I understand the gravity of the situation. I am simply explaining that in some cases the choice is limited and the choice may not be the best but it works when done correctly. I was on a low dose of chronic pain med. and I was told from the beginning that I should not expect nor should I ask for any type of increase or it will be stopped. As a result, I was on this med for two years and it ha given me my life back. I was not as active as I used to be but I could get out and do the things I liked to do. I have always been an outdoor person. Now that I have moved to another VAMC they are so afraid to prescribe a narcotic pain med that I have had mine taken away. Now my life is nothing but pain, unbearable pain. It hurts to do anything and if I try to do the things I used to do, it makes the pain worse. I do not like to be on a narcotic pain med but I have tried all other options that have been available to do and none have helped. I was also told that I would not stay on these forever, that most likely my knees would get worse and then I would have to have them replaced and then I could get off of these things. I keep lobbying for replacements at every Dr. visit to get off of them but my knees are still to good (VA’s statement) to replace. They keep telling me that maybe later. I hate to be a couch potato or an inactive person, it frustrates me to no end. I still get out and do things but not with the enjoyment and as often as I used to. The pain stops me. I have tried to push past it while doing things and it makes it worse. Just my opinion and I am just saying that people are different and what works on one person may not work on another. I am at least trying to help myself get out of my predicament and I will continue.

    1. Dear figure8fan,

      I know what you mean, lately there has been a push from DEA to criminalize opiate prescribing across our country. This is the way they fight back against the pill factories and Dr/s who were getting rich pumping out meds to anyone with money.
      Unfortunately for those that actually need the relief only opiates can provide we are collateral damage with no real voice. As Drs everywhere become more and more afraid to correctly prescribe opiates the patients are forced to seek relief anywhere they can. Street drugs are the only avenue left to most, and that is extremely dangerous.
      For those who are so quick to demonize those who correctly prescribe relief, drive a nail into your thigh and live with the pain for a few years before you tell me to take a Tylenol and bear it, or better yet go to the dentist and get a root canal without local anesthesia, be a man and take what you say others should, take the pain.

      Dr.s are there to heal and stop suffering, without the ability to prescribe real pain medication we prevent them from fulfilling their sworn Hippocratic oath.

      1. Bob, I feel your pain literally. I know that another person on here told me to get off of these and try to take the pain and go on. I am doing that now due to my new VAMC not wanting to prescribe them and He had been through some terrible things (run over by a truck). My heart goes out to him and I am glad that he is able to get off of these type of pills. That being said, I am in agreement with you Bob because it is the complexity of my condition that the chronic pain meds help and help more than I could imagine. I guess the best way to put it was the way it was said to me. “Sometimes we are just to broken to fix and go on. Sometimes we still need that something else to hold those broken pieces together so they will stay together and we can go on with life”. Someday I will hopefully be off of this med and can go on. I am on a low dose and I will never ask for an increase in the mg and I was told that this would not happen as well so I will not become dependent on this med but to allow it to help me become a somewhat normal person again. Some of us actually do need these and any of you who think we are trying to pull a fast one, I will supply the nails for your thigh as Bob stated.

      2. Bob I feel bad for all my brothers and sisters in arms.Who will be living in pain. And they won’t even be able to get the proper medication that they deserve from some doctor who isn’t a military veteran.i am on tramadol which touches my pain my 1 pain level. So from an 8-7 which wow that’s such a great decrease, I also have tylonal which is probably why my liver enzymes have been a little higher then normal due to the fact that tylonal is toxic. Mind you guys I am probably younger then most not saying your all old.
        But the fact that I have to live with this chronic pain and not beAble to get the proper help I deserve and thag the VA IS HERE TO DO, let holihan do his job of upholding and defending the veterans of the United States. I am sickened by this that they can play with somebodys life. And well being its just sickening

      3. Chronic pain vet, I just got done with my recent MRI reading and the Dr. told me who ever took me off of my chronic pain meds was the best thing that could have happened. I asked him how is it the best thing that has ever happened when I now can do nothing but be in pain. I can’t get a job, enjoy life, have a quality of life and could do things. When I was being treated in Seattle (VA) I was able to hold down a job, have some enjoyment, have a life and having a lot less pain. He said he was not there to argue and I said I am not either. I am just asking questions. I repeated the questions and he repeated his statement and walked out. Oh the wonderful VA. HEY VA, SOME OF US NEED THESE MEDICINES AS THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO US AND NOW WE ARE PAYING DEARLY. WAKE UP!

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