Family of dead marine wants VA reforms

U.S. Marine Jason Simcakoski died last August.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A family is torn apart after the death of U.S. Marine Jason Simcakoski late last year.

“We’ve spent years and years watching Jason die a slow, miserable death,” said Heather Simcakoski, the wife of U.S. Marine Jason Simcakoski.

Simcakoski died last year from mixed drug toxicity under the care of doctors at the Tomah Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.

His wife Heather, his parents, and his young daughter were on Capitol Hill Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass a VA reform bill.

“My son had an addiction with pain meds and yet, they put my son back on pain meds,” Marv Simcakoski, Jason’s father said. “There are just a lot of things that need to be fixed at the VA.”

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) released the reform legislation on Monday. The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act calls for stronger opioid prescribing guidelines and education for VA providers. It increases coordination and communication throughout the VA and aims to hold the VA system accountable for care and quality standards.

“It’s a tragic story of loss. The loss of a son, husband, a father,” Baldwin said. “Unfortunately, I believe that the VA’s prescribing practices and over reliance on opioids has resulted in getting our veterans hooked, rather than getting them help.”

Getting veterans help - that’s exactly what Mr. Simcakoski says he plans to do.

“I know there’s a few veterans that have complained and say that ‘you’re taking away our meds.’ My reply is, no I’m saving your life. The answer to overmedication is death.”