The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continues to face intense scrutiny as more and more allegations of mismanagement and even fraudulent behavior are being uncovered at VA hospitals, clinics, and mental health facilities.
Recent news indicates that these issues are not only affecting VA facilities across our nation, but are likely occurring here in Louisiana as well.
Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA) held town hall meetings across the state this week to get a better understanding of what issues veterans are facing regarding health needs.
The meeting brought them to Lake Charles Thursday.
Veteran after veteran shared concerns and issues they're experiencing as it relates to the VA healthcare system.
"People just don't care today," said one of the veterans.
About 15 veterans voiced frustrations to David LaCerte, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.
LaCerte says they're holding these town hall meetings across the state.
"It's important we get a good sampling as to what people are going through so we can understand the problems that they're facing more and talk about solutions a lot better," explained LaCerte.
Problems voiced Thursday ranged from long wait times to claims issues and not having specialty care here.
"Whenever you need some type of expert doctor, or anything, they'll send you all the way back up to Alexandria, instead of going around to local doctors in our area," said veteran Richard Morgan.
"Throughout the state of Louisiana, I think accessibility as to VA care is a constant problem. Whenever you have a veteran who waits 18-19 months for an appointment, it certainly doesn't put any faith that VA is seeing their appointments within 14 days as their claiming," added LaCerte.
While proposed legislation on Capitol Hill would fund the VA clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles, Mayor Randy Roach asked LaCerte to help speed up that process, and to also give us a more permanent facility than the one we have.
"I think it's important to get those two clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles authorized, but it's also important to incorporate real reforms with those two clinics otherwise they're not going to be as effective as they should be," said LaCerte.
But did those in attendance feel their concerns were well received by officials?
Constance Jackson, who is married to a veteran says, "I think their hopes have been raised before and the reality has dashed their hopes and when you have this happen a number of times you get to where you think it's no use."
But LaCerte hopes veterans will keep fighting.
"Stand up and be counted because without that there's no way we can accurately impact solutions moving forward," said LaCerte.
For anyone who could not attend these meetings or who has additional information to share, LDVA has set-up a feature on their website for Veterans to submit their stories. Veterans can access this portion of the site by going to: http://www.vetaffairs.la.gov/AboutLDVA/VAStories.aspx