Family of Wisconsin Marine continues fight for quality veterans care
WASHINGTON (WQOW) -
Family members of a Wisconsin Marine were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, helping to push forward a law named in his honor.
It's been roughly five months since President Barack Obama signed the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act into law. It's named after a Stevens Point Marine veteran who died in the care of the Tomah VA due to opioid abuse.
"This law challenges us and we will meet this challenge to make sure that we don't just have excellent care at many of our facilities for pain management but we have it at all facilities where veterans seek our help," said Carolyn Clancy with the Veterans Health Administration.
Wednesday afternoon, the Simcakoski family met with veterans advocates and politicians in Washington DC to see what kind of progress is being made on quality veteran care.
"I'm proud to be representing my son Jason who I miss and love to this day," said Jason's dad, Marvin Simcakoski.
In the past couple of years, veterans advocates said progress has been made.
"We have seen a reduction in the total number of veterans taking opioids in the long term of about a 1/3," said Clancy.
While there's been progress, there's still a long way to go to get to that quality veteran care.
"We keep pushing this forward, we don't just pass the law, we really want to make sure that it's implemented," said Jason's widow, Heather Simcakoski.
Some of the biggest changes that veterans advocates are looking for, and that leaders said are coming, is with the patient advocates as well as alternatives to prescribing pain medication.
"It was always just that medication, and if that medication wasn't working it was add another one to treat a side effect to that medication," said Heather.
Veterans advocates are hoping that doctors are also held more accountable when prescribing opioids.
While there may not be many tangible results from Jason's law at this time, Marvin said he believes the Department of Veterans Affairs is moving in the right direction.