07.06.16

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Bipartisan VA Reforms Approved by House and Senate Conference Committee

Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act Moves Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin released the following statement after the House and Senate Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Conference Committee approved bipartisan VA reforms she 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 am pleased that the conference committee approved them today,” said Senator Baldwin. “Today’s conference advances critical provisions that would strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ opioid prescribing guidelines and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care we are providing our veterans. My goal is to enact these meaningful reforms to prevent Jason’s tragedy from happening to other veterans and their families. Today we moved one step closer to achieving this goal of safer and more effective pain management services for our nation’s veterans.”

Senator Baldwin’s Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, crafted 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 consistent internal audits as well as GAO reviews and 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), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the Wisconsin Medical Society, Trust for America's Health (TFAH), Harm Reduction Coalition, and the National Safety Council.

The conference report approved today 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.