Hoosier veteran claims Marion VA got him hooked on prescription pills

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SUMMITVILLE, Ind. (Dec. 2, 2015)- After CBS4 uncovered a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) inspection into the prescribing practices of doctors and employees at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Marion, several VA patients have come forward to share their experiences at the hospital.

The week-long inspection at the Marion facility is considered routine and civil at this point. It’s being done in part because the DEA has never taken a close look the Marion VA and its records.

Stephen L. Tarter served six years in the military and claims to have received medical services from the VA in Marion since the early 1990s.

Inside Tarter's home in Summitville, there  is a room full of memories.  Everything from family photos hanging on the walls to an American flag dangling from the ceiling.

His tags from his time in the military hang against several awards he earned while serving.

The proud veteran even has his camouflage helmet on display.  However, the walls that showcase a life story are missing a major chapter.

"I started going to the VA and from there on it was pills, pills, pills," said Tarter.

Inside roughly a dozen pill bottles sprawled out across a living room table are darker memories from Tarter's life.

"In one day I would take all these pills," said Tarter.

Bottle after bottle, Tarter describes the powerful prescription pain medication he would become addicted to.

Medical records illustrate how rapidly Tarter's dependency to pills grew.

"That's when I really knew I was addicted to drugs when I was having the withdrawals," said Tarter.

Tarter suffered from knee pain after he was honorably discharged.

He says he utilized the VA in Marion for his medical needs. The pills he abused for years were written by doctors at the hospital.

The DEA is  trying to determine why the facility orders more addictive narcotics and opiates than any other facility in all of northern Indiana.

"You start out with a bottle a day, then you go back and you get three bottles and within a year you got a grocery sack of pills that you are walking out with," said Tarter.

Tarter says over a span of about five years he saw roughly a dozen different doctors.

"I would just go back and they would increase it and increase it. It would get stronger and stronger," said Tarter.

Tarter took control of his life in August 2015 after overdosing on the concoction of pills he was prescribed.  His son found him unconscious in a bathroom and called 911.

Tarter no longer abuses pain medication and he is hopeful that the VA in Marion holds up their end of the deal.

"When I made the pledge that I would protect my country and serve, they also pledged that they would take care of me," said Tarter.

There is no  timetable for the DEA's inspection and findings.

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