(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter today sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders urging them to include both the Lafayette and Lake Charles VA clinics in their funding authorization bill next month. Vitter met with Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) this week to discuss the matter and was able to get the commitment that at least the Lafayette clinic will be included, and they discussed continuing to push for the Lake Charles clinic too.
“It’s absolutely crucial for Louisiana veterans to have both of these clinics,” Vitter said. “Both would actually be nearing completion, but because of bureaucratic mistakes committed by the VA, they were delayed significantly and pushed onto last year’s VA funding bill, which then ran into the complication with brand new budget rules. The Senate VA Committee has a chance to get his right, and I’ll be urging them to do just that.”
A recent ruling by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reversed authorization for twelve Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) clinics from last year’s VA funding bill including Lafayette and Lake Charles. Vitter is working to get them both back on the list.
Vitter also worked to include a provision into the National Defense Authorization Act during the Senate Armed Services Committee markup that would have addressed seven national VA clinics including the clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles, but his efforts were blocked by bureaucracy in the committees.
A copy of Vitter’s letter following up to the meeting with Ranking Member Burr is below.
June 27, 2013
Senator Bernie Sanders
U.S Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
322 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Senator Richard Burr
U.S Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
217 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 2051
Re: Progress on VA Clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles
Dear Chairman Sanders and Ranking Member Burr:
As you know, because of a recent ruling by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reversing well established precedent, authorization for twelve Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) clinics were not included in last year’s VA funding bill. This included two much needed and fully justified clinics in Louisiana, in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
Following up on my most recent meeting with Ranking Member Burr where we discussed a permanent solution to this problem, I really appreciate your commitment to help solve this serious problem. Specifically, I certainly would support the type of plan that you're now considering to authorize a significant portion of these clinics deemed most necessary to our nation’s veterans in a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs markup in July. I am committed to helping you have this markup as soon as possible, and I will support any reasonable offset you identify to pay for these clinics.
I appreciate your inclusion of the Lafayette clinic as I have requested in the subset of clinics the Committee is working to authorize. This clinic is essential to the well-being of thousands of veterans in the Acadiana area.
As we discussed, it is also extremely important to also include the Lake Charles clinic in the markup. There is no doubt any metric will show there is urgent need for the clinic. Veterans in Lake Charles have been waiting over two years for construction to begin on this clinic and they absolutely need this facility. Currently veterans in Lake Charles only have access to a primary care mobile clinic every business day. On behalf of the tens of thousands of Veterans in Southwest Louisiana, I urge you to add the Lake Charles clinic to the subset.
It's very relevant and important to note that the construction of both of these Louisiana clinics would actually be nearing completion, but because of bureaucratic mistakes committed by the VA, they were delayed significantly and pushed onto last year’s VA funding bill, which then ran into the complication of this unexpected change by CBO of how it scores the cost. So these important clinics are now in peril due to VA’s incompetency. Thank you again for your active partnership in trying to make this right for our veterans.
Thank you for continued work for veterans in Louisiana. These clinics are extremely important and their authorization deserves to be included in the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs markup in July.
United States Senate