At a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs' fiscal year 2013 budget request, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., questioned Secretary Eric Shinseki about delays in opening VA medical clinics in Lake Charles and Lafayette. The Department recently sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La. -- who shared the information with Sen. Landrieu -- stating that the Department made errors during the bidding process for the clinics, resulting in delays of a year or more. Sen. Landrieu expressed her frustration and asked if there was anything that could be done to expedite the process. Sen. Landrieu also sent a letter to Sec. Shinseki expressing her concerns.
"You and your agency committed to build two clinics, one in Lafayette, La., and one in Lake Charles, and this committee allocated the funding to do so. We recently received a letter that both of these clinics will be delayed because of errors made in the solicitation for bid. Is there anything you can do get these two projects, which have the money and have been noted as a priority, back on track? These veterans have been waiting for a long time," Sen. Landrieu said. "If there are any legislative changes that need to be made to expedite this process, I will work to make that happen so that the veterans of southwest Louisiana get the medical clinics they deserve after their sacrifices for our nation."
Sec. Shinseki acknowledged that his Department is responsible for the errors and pledged that he will do everything possible to move the project along as quickly as possible. He said that if there are any legislative actions that could help speed up the process, he will let Sen. Landrieu and the committee know.
"You have my assurance that we are all hands on deck looking at both these projects. I'm as disappointed as you are with what happened here," Sec. Shinseki said. "We just missed these two in Lake Charles and Lafayette, and we got off to a bad contracting start, which was discovered later. We are now correcting that. All of us are focused on this to get this as quickly executable as we can so that we keep our promise to the veterans in both of those parishes."