Government Settles For $2.3 Million Over Death Of Veteran From Toxic Drug Cocktail

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The government has reached a settlement with the widow and daughter of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, who overdosed on a lethal cocktail of drugs given to him by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As part of the settlement, the government is not admitting guilt, but rather paying $2.3 million to avoid the expense of further litigation. A direct $1.65 million is going to the widow and daughter of Simcakoski, while up to $586,000 will go to attorney’s fees and expenses related to the case, The Associated Press reports.

The rest of the money, about $659,100, will be established as annuities for the widow and daughter.

The judge will decide whether or not to approve the settlement on Wednesday because the case involves a minor.

Simcakoski died in 2014 at the Tomah, Wisc., VA. The facility was doling out incredible amounts of opioids and other prescription drugs to veterans. Following his death, the VA inspector general launched an investigation into the facility and determined that doctors were handing out tremendous amounts of opioids to patients. Veterans even called the facility the “Candy Land,” and the then-chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan the “Candy Man.”

Houlihan surrendered his Wisconsin medical license in January.

In Simcakoski’s case, the inspector general found that his death resulted from systematic and avoidable factors. Doctors prescribed him a mix of depressants without either telling him or his family about the side-effects. He died on Aug. 30, 2014, several days after Houlihan added another opiate to his existing 14 medications. When nurses discovered him, they didn’t even bother to attempt emergency resuscitation or use the emergency call system. They didn’t even deliver drugs to try and revive him until 30 minutes after they discovered him.

“Our inspection’s results were consistent with the medical examiner’s conclusion that the patient’s cause of death was mixed drug toxicity,” the report noted. “Additionally, we found deficiencies in the informed consent process and cardiopulmonary resuscitation efforts.”

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