07.13.16

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Bipartisan VA Reforms Pass the Senate, Move to President Obama to be Signed into Law

Baldwin’s bipartisan VA reforms named for Wisconsin Marine will strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines, put in place stronger oversight and accountability, and provide safer and more effective pain management services for our nation’s veterans (AUDIO, VIDEO)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin released the following statement today after the U.S. Senate voted to pass the House and Senate Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Conference Committee legislation, which included bipartisan VA reforms that Senator Baldwin authored in the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act (S.1641):

“I’m proud to have worked with the Simcakoski family to introduce these bipartisan VA reforms and I’m very pleased the Senate is passing them today so the President can sign them into law,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation advances critical provisions that will strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ opioid prescribing guidelines and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care that we are providing our veterans. My goal is to prevent Jason’s tragedy from happening to other veterans and their families. With this vote, we have moved closer to achieving our goal of safer and more effective pain management services for our nation’s veterans, and with President Obama’s signature, we will make these reforms a reality.”

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation. With passage in the Senate today, the bipartisan reforms have cleared Congress and are headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Senator Baldwin’s Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, authored in close consultation with medical professionals, veterans service organizations, and the Simcakoski family, focuses on strengthening the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opioid prescribing guidelines and improving pain management services by putting the following reforms in place:

  • Requiring stronger opioid prescribing guidelines and education for VA providers including stricter standards against prescribing dangerous combinations of opioids with other drugs and for prescribing opioids to patients struggling with mental health issues;
  • Increasing coordination and communication throughout the VA with medical facilities, providers, patients and their families surrounding pain management, alternative treatments for chronic pain, and appropriate opioid therapy; and
  • Holding the VA system accountable for appropriate care and quality standards through GAO reviews and VA reports to Congress.

In addition to improving opioid therapy and pain management, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act strengthens the VA’s patient advocacy program by ensuring advocates are independent and truly work for veterans, expands access to complementary and integrative health and wellness, and enhances VA hiring practices to help prevent bad doctors from treating veterans.

Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation has also gained support from: Disabled American Veterans Wisconsin, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Military Health Project, National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Veterans (AMVETS), Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Wisconsin Medical Society, Trust for America's Health (TFAH), Harm Reduction Coalition, and the National Safety Council.

The conference legislation also includes Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan bill with Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) to make naloxone rescue kits more affordable and accessible to our nation’s veterans by eliminating veteran copayments for naloxone.


AUDIO of Senator Baldwin’s statement is available for download here.

VIDEO of Senator Baldwin’s statement is available for download here.