VA clinic bogged down again - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

VA clinic bogged down again

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(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

It seems to be a saga that never ends -- a permanent clinic for veterans in the Lake Charles area.

Veterans are upset about what seems to be yet another bureaucratic snafu that raises questions about whether the Lake Area will ever get a clinic.

Getting a veterans clinic for the Lake Charles area has been a priority for the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission for more than a decade. That's one of the reasons Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach is working to help resolve the latest issues -- which have to do with the Congressional Budget Office changing the rules.

"When you're talking about a VA clinic, you're talking about an immediate need to provide medical care to our veterans. That's immediate. We need to do that now," Roach said.

But Roach explains, "The CBO -- Congressional Budget Office -- has changed the rules when it comes to leases for veterans clinics. Basically, what you're saying is that you can't do a VA clinic unless Congress appropriates enough money today to pay for the lease over a 20-year period," Roach said.

For years, veterans have had to drive out of town for medical care at a VA facility. A new mobile clinic helped those who thought they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, it seems a bureaucratic logjam has put 38 future leases in 22 states in jeopardy.

"When they adopted this rule, basically saying these clinics need to be fully funded in year one, even though it's a 20-year lease, they effectively made the program unaffordable," Roach said.

Lake Charles Memorial Health System President and CEO Larry Graham said the new cooperative agreement with LSU may offer some solutions.

"We obviously have a lot of capacity over at the Moss campus so we can provide space, and we can provide technical services whether it be diagnostics through radiology, lab, those kinds of things," Graham said.

Graham and Roach had a conversation about the possibility of a veterans clinic at Moss.

"I think on the short run they have a mobile system that could potentially come to our campus and potentially hook up. Longer term if they would like we could potentially provide space and services to them. I think all options are open and we'll see," Graham said.

For now, all wait on what Senator Mary Landrieu and Congressman Charles Boustany call an impasse in Washington that jeopardizes veterans access to care. Roach is working with our congressional delegation toward getting a veterans clinic for our area.

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