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Vote today could help give Lake Charles permanent VA clinic

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 9:12 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

The U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs today will consider legislation that would restart the halted process of making a permanent VA clinic in Lake Charles a reality.

In total, the committee’s legislation would authorize 27 major medical facilities across the United States proposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In an open letter to House Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-Lafayette, applauded the news.

“The legislation that has the authority to build these clinics will be taken up by the committee and voted on,” Boustany said by phone Tuesday. “That’s the first step in a legislative process to enact this into law.”

In September 2012, the Congressional Budget Office “arbitrarily changed the way the cost of these clinics would be calculated,” Boustany said.

He said today’s session will effectively remove that budgetary hurdle. “For one solid year we were on hold. Now, we can begin moving forward,” he said.

After the bill moves through committee, the House of Representatives will have to pass the bill, and the U.S. Senate will then have to take action.

Boustany believes there is enough political will to get the legislation passed. “The effort it took on my part to break through this initial barrier was pretty big,” Boustany said.

Once the authority is granted, the funding can be inserted. Boustany hopes to get the funding restored in January.

“I’m doing everything I possibly can to break down the red tape — the bureaucracy — because getting these clinics have been a top priority for me,” he said.

Repeated delays in the construction of the clinics have forced thousands of Southwest Louisiana veterans to travel more than three hours to get medical care. In May 2012, a mobile clinic opened in Lake Charles, but local veterans await a permanent facility.

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