Veterans Affairs Committee chairman: Overmedication of veterans at VA "not acceptable"

(CBS News) Over the last 11 years, the number of veterans treated by VA health-care providers has increased 29 percent, but the number of

narcotics prescriptions written by VA doctors is up 259 percent.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

For the last month, we've been reporting on the consequences of this, including

accidental fatal overdoses. This week we sat down with Congressman Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Miller, a Republican from Florida, expressed his concern over the ratio at VA between pain management specialists and suffering veterans.

"You're talking about 2 providers per 100,000 veterans," said Miller. "I don't see how they can in anyway think that they're able to manage this particular part of the pain management of our veterans."

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Watch Jim Axelrod's report on veterans' accidental overdoses below.

Miller called the situation "not acceptable."

"Unfortunately, it has become a routine way of dealing with our veterans, and I don't think America expects their veterans to be given prescriptions only to mask the feeling of pain and not help the veteran get better," he said.

This week, Heather McDonald and Kimberly Green testified on Capitol Hill about their husbands Scott and Ricky, both veterans with chronic pain who accidentally fatally overdosed on prescriptions written and filled by VA providers.

"There have to be systemic changes made within VA, but you can't just tell people to make those changes without some type of follow up," said Miller. "Today, given the fact that there are pain-management specialists out there that can help the veterans deal with their pain without going through this heavy narcotic-prescription issue, I think that the veterans should have that opportunity. I wish I could guarantee, in fact, that it would never happen again, but there are no guarantees."

The VA doctors at the hearing

promised to make changes to restore trust . They were told by the hearing's chairman to get him some ideas on how to do that within 30 days.
  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.