Family of Veteran Whose Death Sparked VA Chief of Staff Firing Reaches $2.3 Mil Settlement

In 2014, Marine veteran Jason Simcakoski checked in to the Tomah Veterans Affairs medical facility in Wisconsin for a painkiller addiction and severe anxiety.

According to NBC News, the 35-year-old husband and father was taking over a dozen drugs and died of “mixed drug toxicity,” only weeks after being admitted to the facility nicknamed “Candy Land.” The autopsy, along with the fact that life-saving measures weren’t taken until over 10 minutes after he was found unconscious, prompted an investigation.

As a result, the facility’s chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan was fired and permanently surrendered his medical license and the family filed a claim against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

When the claim went unanswered, the family sued the federal government for wrongful death in August of 2016, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“He didn’t deserve that,” his then 11-year-old daughter Anaya told NBC News. “I wish they would’ve helped when he was there instead of just keep giving him more and more and more.”

On Friday, according to Fox News, the government and the family reached a settlement of $2.3 million, which is broken down into an upfront payment of $1.65 million and $659,000 in annuities to Simcakoski’s widow and daughter and the rest would go toward attorney fees and expenses.

Fox News reported that one of the terms of the settlement is that the payment is not an admission of fault by the government, but instead a way to avoid expenses and risks of further litigation.

Since the settlement involves Anaya, who is under 18-years-old, the Wisconsin State Journal noted that it has to be approved by U.S. District Judge James Peterson.

During a hearing that is set for Wednesday, Peterson will reportedly hear about the reasonableness of the settlement and how it will be managed for Anaya.

In July of 2016, the Jason Simcakoski PROMISE Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of VA reforms. It requires the VA to not only update pain management guidelines but also provide more education and training in regard to opioid use.

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