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Proposed legislation calls for permanent VA clinic in Lake Charles

Last Modified: Sunday, March 03, 2013 9:10 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

A permanent Veterans Affairs clinic in Lake Charles is among the more than a dozen VA facilities that would gain authorization in a bill proposed by two Louisiana lawmakers Thursday.

The legislation — called the Keep Our Commitment to Veterans Act — includes clinics in Lafayette and 13 areas elsewhere in the country. It would authorize the two Louisiana clinics for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

The measure was proposed by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-Lafayette, and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is among the co-sponsors.

Officials have said 6,000 veterans would likely enroll in VA health care if Lake Charles were to get a permanent clinic. The city now has a mobile clinic.

“The veterans in South Louisiana have faced continued delays and problems with clinics in Lake Charles and Lafayette, and the latest issue is now with the leases for these clinics,” Landrieu said in a news release.

“The method of authorizing leases should not stand in the way of our veterans receiving the high-quality health care they deserve after sacrificing to protect our nation. This legislation will authorize these clinics, an important step in our continued work to provide for our veterans.”

James Jackson, vice commander of the American Legion in Lake Charles, returned from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday after several days of meeting with members of the state’s congressional delegation about issues with the VA. He said Thursday that the legislation is “the only answer to the problem.”

A Landrieu staffer told the American Press the legislation has strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The staffer said the VA had made serious mistakes during the failed procurement process for clinics, but that the agency has taken responsibility. The current issue, the staffer said, isn’t the VA, but the leasing process.

Neal Patel, a Boustany spokesman said, the congressman wants “to receive an explicit decision from House and Senate leadership on whether Congress will authorize promised new VA clinics or simply blame the (Congressional Budget Office) and the VA or try to change the subject.”

“I’m glad veterans’ groups have made this issue a priority in nationwide grassroots calls to action,” Patel said. “Otherwise, the VA warns we’ll face clinic closures as some existing leases expire. That is unacceptable.”

He said the VA “dropped the ball” and put Lake Charles and Lafayette in this situation by not requesting authorization for the clinics two years ago. He said they received bids that exceeded the million-dollar requirement for congressional approval and failed to act due to incompetence.

“Making matters worse, they continue to turn Lake Charles vets away from their temporary mobile clinic,” Patel said. “Local vets warn the VA has reached the cap on (veterans) it will treat in the Lake Charles area.”


Title: What happened to common sense in making decision

As a healthcare provider, I have heard hundreds of complaints from our military veterns on how they are treated by the VA. They include having to ride buses for hundred of mile to Alexandria, seeing their physicians in the Lake Charles area only to have their prescriptions rewritten by a VA physician, the required mail order system being late in delivering their needed medication, plus many other burecratic policies that in my opiinion is a waste of time and tax payers money.
Lake Charles has always been treated like it is in Texas and not part of Louisiana. I thank Congressman Boustany, Senators Landrieu and Vitter for their efforts and for not giving up to get a clinic in Lake Charles.

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