Johnson, Feingold Point Fingers Over Tomah VA Troubles

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold chats with seniors about social security at a Madison coffee shop.  Feingold opposes privatization and raising the retirement age. Republican Ron Johnson has called social security a Ponzi scheme.

Problems at the troubled Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center have become the latest political cudgel in Wisconsin’s 2016 U.S. Senate race, showing up in attack ads that see both incumbent Republican Ron Johnson and democrat Russ Feingold blaming each other for not acting on a whistleblower’s complaint about the high level of narcotics prescribed to patients.

During a campaign stop at a Madison coffee shop Friday, Feingold hit back at spots that claim he didn’t respond to complaints about prescription practices that were linked to the death of Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Stevens Point.

“I find it shocking that a United States senator who is in trouble in his re-election would use the death of a veteran as a way to get political advantage and I assure you it is a completely false claim,” Feingold said.

He maintains his office never saw the whistleblower’s complaint and, in turn, criticized Johnson for not acting fast enough when his office got the information. Johnson said that once he found out about the complaint, he initiated a thorough investigation.

“In three months we uncovered more than the Office of Inspector General uncovered in a three-year investigation which they buried. And as a result of that, we held people accountable.”

The VA did carry out an investigation that resulted in the firing of psychiatrist and chief of staff David Houlihan, who was nicknamed the “Candy Man.” The hospital’s director was also fired.