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Lack of VA clinic for Lake Charles gets national attention

Last Modified: Friday, August 02, 2013 10:26 AM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

Lake Charles received national exposure Wednesday when CBS News aired a story about why the federal government has been hesitant to fund construction of VA clinics at 27 sites across the United States.

In June, news representatives were in Lake Charles to interview Deron Santiny, an Iraq War veteran who takes offense at the temporary local clinic, which he dubbed a “camper.” In the piece that aired, Satiny was being interviewed in front of the Fifth Avenue mobile VA clinic — the only relief for Lake Charles veterans who do not want to drive 90 minutes to Alexandria to receive medical care.

“Veterans deserve more,” Santiny told the CBS reporter.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, was instrumental in bringing attention to the matter to CBS News. Boustany has 13,000 veterans in his district.

“While south Louisiana’s veterans suffer through this terrible ordeal, their plight provides the perfect example for the national media to highlight the ineptitude of government bureaucrats,” Neal Patel, Boustany’s communications director, told the American Press on Thursday.

“As the report shows, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made empty promises about VA clinics to veterans across the country.”

The latest delay for the Lake Charles clinic came after the Congressional Budget Office announced the VA would have to pay 20 years of leases up front for the clinics. The local lease would cost $1 million per year.

Promoting the issue on a larger scale and asking CBS News to conduct the story puts more pressure on the VA, the Obama administration and congressional leaders to address the issue sooner rather than later, Patel said. “As momentum builds, the grassroots coalition, and its accompanying voices, continues to grow,” he said.

James Jackson, vice commander of the state American Legion, has been an advocate for a permanent VA in Southwest Louisiana.

“I’m very concerned that even with the national exposure we can’t get enough support in Congress to make something happen,” Jackson said.

Congressional action can override the CBO, but there is a lack of political will in Congress, he added.

“The veterans are the ones paying the price for this, and it’s just not right,” Jackson said. “No one really seems to care about the veterans anymore.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to reverse the CBO’s decision and begin building the clinics, while House Speaker John Boehner wants to come up with another way to finance the clinics.

Congress was made aware of the problem more than nine months ago, but construction on the clinics remains stalled.


Posted By: Markus W On: 8/2/2013

Title: Use to it

As a 3x Iraq veteran, I am use to the lack of will by our government. I can play with death countless times in Iraq, but can't get the support needed back home. It's and on going story and honestly, if anyone ever asked me my opinion on joining, loudly I would say, that's a big negative

Posted By: Gary On: 8/2/2013


Can we not just let the veterans go to a facility of THEIR choice (wherever is most convenient or best suited to provide the care they need), and then let the VA pick up all or part of the tab? I honor and appreciate the veterans and thank them for their service, but do we need to build yet another government facility to serve a single demographic?

Posted By: Denise On: 8/2/2013

Title: ???

I just don't understand why they can't turn Moss Regional into a VA hospital, it makes so much sense--the facility is there and they keep shutting it down bit by bit.

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