Rep. Boustany pushes for action on VA clinics in Lake Charles, Lafayette

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany,

R-Lafayette, wants U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who

heads the House Budget Committee,

to explain why 27 requests to build Department of Veterans Affairs

medical facilities were denied over the past two years.

Boustany released the two-page letter he sent to Ryan on Monday.

Southwest Louisiana has long requested a medical clinic to serve the veterans in the area.

“It’s shameful when many of our nation’s veterans must routinely travel more than three hours to receive specialized medical

care for combat-related conditions,” Boustany said in a statement released along with the letter.

“A recent ‘CBS Evening News’ story called attention to veterans facing these hardships as Washington continues to ignore them.

Lawmakers’ refusal to authorize proposed leases for veterans’ community-based outpatient clinics prolongs these delays and

increases travel costs for taxpayers.”

According to Boustany’s letter to Ryan, the problem has been “exacerbated” by the Congressional Budget Office’s decision to

classify VA third-party-financed leases as mandatory spending.

The White House Office of Management and Budget considers VA leases discretionary spending, Boustany said.

He said there have been instances in

the past in which Congress ignored the CBO’s requirements and used the

OMB’s classification.

Boustany said that the clinics with expiring leases are also in danger of closing “if Congress accepts CBO’s constraints.”

He asked Ryan for a response by the end of the year.

“Chairman Ryan believes we must give the VA the resources it needs to meet our commitment to our nation’s veterans,” Ryan’s

office said in a statement released to the American Press in response to the letter.

“The Budget Committee staff will continue to work with the Veterans Affairs Committee staff on the best way to meet the VA’s

health-care infrastructure request.”

Boustany said the lack of VA clinics affects 340,000 veterans in 22 states.

James Jackson, commander of the state American Legion and a Southwest Louisiana resident, said he didn’t know if anything

would come of Boustany’s letter, but said he appreciated the congressman keeping the issue in the “forefront, which is the

only way we’re ever going to get anything done.”

Jackson said veterans have been working to build a clinic in Southwest Louisiana for more than a decade.

“For us not to have a clinic and for them not to fund it because of some Congressional Budget Office ruling, like Charles

said, it’s just shameful and just ridiculous,” Jackson said.

The mobile clinic now set up in Lake Charles serves 1,200 veterans — only a portion of those in the area, Jackson said.

He said he had an appointment scheduled at the VA clinic in Alexandria on Friday, but wasn’t able to go because of unforeseen

circumstances. He wasn’t able to reschedule for six months.

“I’m fairly healthy, but look at the people who aren’t healthy,” Jackson said.

He said there were plans to house a VA clinic at Moss Regional Hospital, but that it didn’t meet green energy standards. He

said the clinic would have cost less than $1 million a year to operate.

“It’s really a shame they can’t see fit to fund this thing and get on down the road with taking care of the veterans,” Jackson

said.