U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today hosted a meeting with high-ranking Department of Veterans Affairs officials and questioned them about the actions the department is taking to expedite the building of delayed VA clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., and Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., also participated in the meeting. The department announced to the delegation on March 9 that it made errors during the solicitation for offers to build the clinics, resulting in delays of a year or more.
During the meeting, VA officials took full responsibility for the errors and resulting delays, revealing details of its flawed procurement process. Last week at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pledged to Sen. Landrieu and to Louisiana's veterans that he will do everything possible to expedite the construction of the two clinics. The VA officials at today's meeting reiterated the Secretary's commitment, assuring Sen. Landrieu and other attendees that the situation has his full attention.
"Today's meeting was an opportunity to question the VA in detail about what went wrong, how to move forward and what members of the delegation can do to assist. Many veterans and their families are understandably angry and upset about the delays in these clinics. The VA took full responsibility for the failed procurement process, committing to Louisiana's veterans and promising the delegation that it will try every way possible under the law to expedite the process," Sen. Landrieu said. "I remain committed to working with our delegation to push the VA to produce detailed plans and a timeline to begin construction in Lake Charles and Lafayette, to mitigate delays and to deliver vital health care to our veterans. I also pledged to work with the VA and delegation to identify and implement any legislative fixes that would speed the clinics' construction. After the sacrifices our veterans have made for our nation, this is the least we can do."
Philip Matkovsky, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Administrative Operation, said during the meeting that the department owes Louisiana veterans a set of transparent plans and a timeline that demonstrates it is taking action on solving the problem. Officials also committed to giving Sen. Landrieu and members of the delegation monthly status updates.
In addition to hosting today's meeting and questioning Secretary Shinseki last week, Sen. Landrieu has also written to the department expressing her concerns about the delays.