WASHINGTON D. C. - The U.S. Senate just voted to pass the House and Senate Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Conference Committee legislation, which included bipartisan VA reforms that Wisconsin's U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind of the Third District in western and central Wisconsin, authored in the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act. The legislation was passed just before Congress goes into recess until after Labor Day.
“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 unanimous support. 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.
The bipartisan legislation is designed to fix the problems at the Tomah VA.
“I was pleased to see the Senate follow in the House’s footsteps and pass this important legislation, to address the opiate epidemic and give veterans and their families the tools they need and the accountability they deserve,” said Rep. Kind. “Much of the credit for this victory lies with the Simcakoski family, who have worked tirelessly with our office and others to make sure no other family has to go through what they have and create a legacy Jason would be proud of.”
The 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.
The 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.