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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why Represent Your Constituents? Baldwin Finds A Way To Not Help Vets

Tammy Baldwin Quietly Left Committee With Oversight of Scandal-Plagued Wis. VA Facility

Republican Party of Wisconsin says Baldwin fled from her responsibilities

Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Tammy Baldwin / AP
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) has quietly
stepped away from the committee that has
 oversight over a scandal-plagued Wisconsin
 Veterans Affairs facility, actions some
 Republicans see as the Democratic senator
 running from her past failures on the issue.
Baldwin served on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee throughout
 the 114th Congress but does not appear to
be on the committee in the 115th Congress,
according to its roster. The committee has
oversight over the Tomah VA, a VA facility
 in Wisconsin that was over-prescribing opiates
 to patients and saw a Marine die from an
A memo, first circulated in 2009, warned
 of the dangerous amounts of narcotics that were being ordered by Dr. David Houlihan, the Tomah
VA chief of staff, and prescribed to veterans at the Tomah VA center.
Individuals at the center feared objecting to the orders of Dr. Houlihan, who received the nickname "the candy man."
"It is a known fact that if providers or pharmacists refuse to follow Dr. Houlihan’s orders, they will be
 yelled at and perhaps fired," the memo stated.
Five years later, in 2014, a veteran was prescribed a lethal mixture of drugs by the medical center
and overdosed. Dr. Houlihan was fired from the facility in 2015.
It was later discovered that Baldwin, who was first elected to the Senate in 2012, was the only
member of Congress from Wisconsin to receive an official federal government Inspector General
 report on the abuses at Tomah. However, Baldwin did not take action until more than four months
 later after the scandal became public, according to reports.
A former staffer of Baldwin, Marquette Baylor, was ousted from her position as deputy state director
 over the controversy.
Baylor was offered a severance package that came with a stipulation of signing a confidentiality
agreement, according to news reports at the time. The amount that Baylor would have received is
 not known. Baylor rejected the severance package.
Heather Fluty Simcakoski, the widow of the veteran who died at the facility, previously said that
Baldwin's handling of the VA report on Tomah was "frustrating" to her.
"She said (she's) so sorry for our loss, and that she takes very serious those things, but not, ‘Sorry
 for not reading the report,'" Simcakoski said during an interview in 2015.
A spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin told the Washington Free Beacon that Sen. Baldwin
 is running from the issue rather than standing up for Wisconsin veterans.
"Senator Baldwin's decision to run from her failures rather than stand up for Wisconsin's veterans
 is shameful," Alec Zimmerman said. "Instead of fighting for reforms to the system by participating
in the ongoing oversight of the Tomah VA by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Committee, she has embraced the Washington status quo and fled her responsibilities to solve
 the problem. Nothing can change the fact that Senator Baldwin failed to act when she had reason
 to believe Wisconsin's veterans were in danger."
Sen. Baldwin's office did not return a request for comment by press time.