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City Council resolution fights ruling that hinders construction of VA clinics

Last Modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2013 8:43 PM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

The Lake Charles City Council passed a resolution Wednesday asking Louisiana’s congressional delegation to fight a Congressional Budget Office ruling that hinders the construction of clinics for America’s veterans.

Mayor Randy Roach said the decision by the federal government would make the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spend between $1.2 and $1.5 billion in upfront money for leases before construction would begin on 15 community-based clinics around the nation, with two planned to be built in Louisiana.

Federal law stipulates the VA get congressional approval to lease commercial space for medical facilities if the lease will be more than $1 million the first year.

Last year, the CBO found that “rules require that funds to offset the entire 20-year prospective lease cost would need to be included either in the VA budget, or would be taken from funding of ongoing veteran’s programs — all in the first year of each lease.”

“CBO indicated this policy also would apply to renewals of existing VA leases. This CBO decision multiplied VA’s cost for these proposed 15 leases by 20-fold,” Roach said. Because estimated costs are so high, the clinics are not being considered by Congress this year.

James Jackson, vice commander of Louisiana’s American Legion, has been a part of a 14-year fight to get a veteran’s clinic in the area.

“World War II vets are in their 80s and 90s and have trouble getting to Alexandria. Vietnam War vets have trouble. And female veterans need assistance too,” he said. “The ruling is arbitrary and capricious.”

Jackson said the area has about 40,000 veterans.

“What is wrong with this picture?” he said. “We’re trying to help vets.”

According to Jackson, CBS News will visit Lake Charles today to take an in-depth look at the effort area veterans have been involved in to get a health clinic.

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