Lack of VA clinic for Lake Charles gets national attention

By 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


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.