Kurtz Demands Accountability

In a column in the La Crosse Tribune, Tony Kurtz goes after Congressman Ron Kind for his passivity in light of the Candyland Scandal at the Tomah VA Medical Center. Kurtz writes:

On May 28, Kind said he was “mad as hell” after learning about problems at VA facilities across the nation. He said he wanted to form a blue ribbon commission to get to the bottom of the delays in providing care.

Kind said the Tomah VA only had minor issues with staff shortages. There was no mention publicly about the complaint his office received in August 2011. If, in fact, Kind was “mad as hell,” why didn’t he ask for the report about the OIG investigation into the Tomah VA?

As a veteran, all we really want is to be treated with respect and receive quality care. The vast majority of VA employees are wonderful caregivers who go the extra mile to take care of veterans.

Apparently Kind wasn’t mad as hell enough to pursue what he knew to be an ongoing issue at the Tomah VAMC. Instead he chose to issue talking points and hope the issue stayed out of headlines until after the election.

Were it not for a California-based investigative journalism outlet, would this story have ever come to light? Or would the over-medication and “drug diversions” (also known as selling prescription drugs on the street) have continued forever?

The drug diversion problem is real. Our region has serious problems with heroin, meth, and drug-related crime. Since many addicts “graduate” from prescription opiates to those hard drugs, there’s no telling what kind of problems this has created in western Wisconsin. A Congressman with the best interests of his constituents in mind, and with an ear to the ground among the law enforcement community, would be on top of this.

This scandal is not minor – people died – and it’s not going away any time soon, especially if good, patriotic people like Kurtz keep the heat on. Kind will no doubt continue to dodge questions, inasmuch as he’s even asked them.

Kind’s office claims it received its first anonymous complaint in 2011, but he also said officials at the Tomah VA “didn’t notify me…they didn’t notify anyone,” in effect shifting attention from his own failure to pursue answers, instead offering limp platitudes, which is Kind’s specialty. Kind also said at one press conference that the Tomah VA staff “candidly admit they dropped the ball” by not falling over themselves to get the report to the almighty Kind and that those bureaucrats now know “they need to keep our offices better informed.”

If Kind is relying on the gears of a demonstrably monstrous, slow, and even dangerously inept bureaucracy to keep his office informed, he’s grossly naive about the dysfunction of government. That or he didn’t care to pursue the facts himself. Kurtz also touches on this dysfunction:

I also question why it takes two to three years to conduct an internal investigation? I have conducted Army-level investigations, and they typically take just four to six weeks, possibly 12 weeks for more complex problems. Just think about the time wasted and the lives that lost because of such delays. The OIG must streamline its investigation process and allow outside organizations to conduct these investigations in a timely manner.

Kind also “lamented allegations of a ‘culture of intimidation’ that frustrates staff members who raise issues about care.” As I commented in a previous post, these are the words of a lazy congressman who for some reason voters were scammed into re-electing – a congressman who apparently has given as much thought to the staff members being frustrated that their concerns fell on deaf ears as the health of the affected veterans. Real leaders aren’t reactive, they’re proactive for the good of – at the very least – the people they claim to care about.

Ron Kind spends a lot of time at ribbon cutting ceremonies at VFWs and American Legions. There were no photo ops at the Tomah VA.

Kurtz, a 20-year veteran who now runs a farm and small business, ran against Kind last fall. It was the most competitive congressional race in Wisconsin that year, but he still lost 43-57. One wonders what impact the revelation that Kind may have been sitting on years of complaints about the Tomah VA’s practices would’ve had on the election. The district does boast a large number of veterans, veterans who Kind has claimed to represent.

It’s a shame he didn’t care enough to get out of the Congressional Gym and find some answers.

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About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.
  • Clyde Fromona

    Remember, RK says the investigators never got back to him, same with Sen. Tammy. The buck never got here, I found out when I read about it in the paper!