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Baldwin, Van Orden Lead Wisconsin Delegation in Introducing Bill to Rename Tomah VA after Wisconsin Veteran Jason Simcakoski

In 2016, Senator Baldwin passed “Jason’s Law” to strengthen VA’s opioid prescribing guidelines and provide safer pain management to veterans

WISCONSIN – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Representative Derrick Van Orden (R-WI-03) led the entire Wisconsin congressional delegation in introducing a new bill to rename the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin after Jason Simcakoski, a Wisconsin veteran who tragically lost his life after battling addiction to opioids prescribed by the VA. Since his passing, Senator Baldwin has worked with the Simcakoski family to pass “Jason’s Law,” bipartisan legislation to strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines and improve pain management services for veterans.

“Families like the Simcakoski’s have a story that needs to be heard. Jason Simcakoski volunteered to serve his country in the Marines, but tragically, like too many veterans, his life was cut short. I was proud to work with the Simcakoski family to honor Jason’s legacy in 2016, and every year since, by making real changes at the VA to improve care and protect veterans, overhauling opioid prescribing practices and saving lives,” said Senator Baldwin. “Today, veterans across the country are receiving better, safer care because of ‘Jason’s Law.’ By renaming the Tomah VA, we will continue to honor Jason’s legacy and the Simcakoski family’s work to ensure this devastating loss continues saving lives for years to come.”

“Everyone who knew Jason admired his outgoing nature, humor, and leadership, and deeply felt his loss. Jason was also always a protector and would want to be remembered as someone who gave his life to save the lives of other veterans, and this tribute will be another step forward in that legacy,” said Marv Simcakoski, Jason’s father. “I'm grateful to Congressman Van Orden and Senator Baldwin’s leadership to rename the Tomah VA, I really appreciate the bipartisan support of the entire Wisconsin Congressional Delegation and I’m thankful for the good people at the Tomah VA who work hard to serve and treat our veterans. Now, every veteran who walks through the doors at Tomah VA will remember Jason’s service and know the difference he made for his fellow veterans.”

“Jason and I did not serve together, but we are fellow veterans and Brothers in Arms. As a nation, we owe him and his family a debt that can never be fully repaid. We can never allow Jason's tragic story to be forgotten, and by naming the Tomah VA Medical Center after him, he will continue his service to our nation by ensuring our healthcare professionals provide the highest standard of care to those who have protected our freedoms and are held accountable when they do not. I am profoundly grateful to the Members of the Wisconsin Delegation who helped make this possible. Semper Fi, Marine. We have the watch,” said Representative Van Orden.

“Jason’s tragic story is also one of determination, as he alerted law enforcement authorities to the deadly opioid prescription practices at the Tomah VA Medical Center while he himself was suffering from those abuses,” said Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). “Renaming the Tomah VA Medical Center after Jason will honor his efforts to try to save himself and other veterans from the systemic abuses that occurred and serve as a constant reminder of the duty of care owed to every veteran.”

Senator Baldwin’s legislation introduced today would rename the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, as the “Jason Simcakoski VA Medical Center.” In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Senator Johnson and companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives is led by Representative Van Orden and is cosponsored by Representatives Bryan Steil (R-WI-01), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI-05), Glenn Grothman (R-WI-06), Tom Tiffany (R-WI-07), and Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08).

Jason Simcakoski served in the Marine Corps and during his service, he sustained a significant head injury that required prolonged medical treatment at the Tomah VA Medical Center. Jason was overprescribed many medications, including opioids, and this eventually led to Jason’s tragic passing in 2014.

Jason's experience demonstrated the urgent need for reform in the opioid prescribing practices within the VA healthcare system. Working closely with Jason’s family, Senator Baldwin’s Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, or “Jason’s Law,” was signed into law to strengthen the VA opioid prescribing guidelines and improve pain management services for veterans.

The enactment and implementation of “Jason’s Law” has directly contributed to the improved safety and welfare of veterans across the United States. Since 2012, the VA has reduced the number of veterans with opioid prescriptions by 67 percent. In subsequent years, Senator Baldwin also fought to secure funding for “Jason’s Law” to hold the VA accountable, strengthening oversight of the VA’s opioid prescribing practices, and providing safer care for our veterans.

Full text of this legislation is available here.