Veterans testify VA doctors increased meds without treating problem

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - A House subcommittee heard testimony Thursday on a problem CBS News

exposed last month : Many returning war veterans are overmedicated, with some receiving lethal amounts of pain medication from Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Justin Minyard
Justin Minyard
CBS News

On Capitol Hill, two veterans crippled by debilitating pain described their VA doctors increasing narcotics dosages instead of treating the underlying causes.

"I struggled with years of dependence on opioid therapy that was my only option made available to me for my chronic debilitating back pain," said Justin Minyard.

Minyard, a retired Army special ops interrogator, first hurt his back as a first responder at the Pentagon on 9/11.

"At my worst point, I was taking enough pills daily to treat four terminally ill cancer patients," said Minyard.

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Josh Renschler
Josh Renschler
CBS News

Thirty-year-old retired Army infantryman Josh Renschler, hurt by a mortar blast in Iraq, needs a cane and can barely hold his child.

The VA has him on 13 medications for his pain.

"And when I cry out to the VA, my own source of medical care, to help me with this situation, and I'm hit with a brick wall and a bottle of pills, that does not end the hopelessness," said Renschler.

Federal records obtained by CBS News detail numerous concerns about narcotics prescription practices at VA facilities around the country.

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

In Las Vegas, New Orleans and Texas, employees reported VA providers and pharmacists being "forced" and "coerced" by management to fill and refill narcotics.

A doctor reported to a VA hotline she was "resigning because of excessive narcotics distribution" at a VA hospital in Alabama.

A VA deputy undersecretary for health, Dr. Robert Jesse, turned and promised the two men and all veterans to do a better job of looking past medications and get to the root cause of veterans' pain.

"To Mr. Renschler and Mr. Minyard, thank God you're still with us. And whatever we can do to restore your trust in the VA, please give us a chance," said Jesse.

The hearing's chairman told Dr. Jesse he expected to hear from him within a month with more specifics on what exactly the VA plans to do to restore that trust.

  • 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.