Simcakoski family, Sen. Baldwin tour Tomah VA, say progress being made

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TOMAH, Wis. (WSAW) -- After Saturday's tour of the Tomah VA, both the Simcakoskis and Senator Tammy Baldwin say the facility has come a long way since the law made in Jason Simcakoski's memory was passed last year.

Marv and Linda Simcakoski walked down the hallways with Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. For the Simcakoskis, it was an emotional experience.

"Brings back memories when you go down the halls," Linda Simcakoski explained.

On one wall is a picture of the Simcakoski's son, Jason. He was a marine who died at the Tomah VA in 2014 from a deadly combination of 14 prescription drugs -- including opiates -- under doctors' care. But through his tragedy comes hope.

Last year, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial and Promise Act, otherwise known as Jason's Law, took effect. It ensures veterans at VAs nationwide get the treatment they need. After its first year in effect, the Simcakoskis say they're seeing progress.

"A big change from when we first started going there," Linda Simcakoski said.

"The VA had a serious problem with veterans who were seeking help and getting hooked instead. We're seeing how that's turning around," Sen. Baldwin added.

Baldwin is one of many among Democrats and Republicans who helped make sure Jason's Law gets funding for a second year. She said the tour of the VA shows evidence that care for veterans has improved.

"The number of veterans on high doses of opioids is coming down," Sen. Baldwin explained. "We're getting out reports on how many of the providers and doctors and nurses who can prescribed have been fully trained."

The Simcakoskis and Sen. Baldwin say they're not done, as they'll continue to make sure money put into the funding for Jason's Law is used wisely, and that what's happening in Tomah happens at other VA facilities nationwide.

"Jason's pushing us to keep this going and you know, we'll never forget," Jason's father Marv Simcakoski said.

Continued funding for Jason's Law was implemented recently, which benefits programs such as the VA office of patient advocacy, implementation of opioid therapy and clinical practice guidelines.