Testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today urged Dept. of Veterans Affairs officials to end the bureaucratic bottleneck that has prevented the construction of VA clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles. She also pressed the committee to move her Keep Our Commitment to Veterans Act forward, which would resolve a Congressional Budget Office scoring issue preventing the construction of the two Louisiana VA clinics, along with 13 others across the country, in Fiscal Year 2013. Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr., M.D., R-La., has partnered with Sen. Landrieu by introducing a companion version of this bill in the House.
"Because the Congressional Budget Official changed its scoring methods, we have found ourselves in a frustrating situation in Louisiana where we have two clinics that have been proposed for several years that are now in complete limbo. And, even worse, we have 20,000 veterans in Southwest Louisiana without access to a health care clinic they need and deserve," Sen. Landrieu said, testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "We've got to find a way forward. So on behalf of the 20,000 veterans and their families that I'm here to represent, I hope this committee will advance my Keep Our Commitment to Veterans Act. Passing this bill is an opportunity for us to make clear to our veterans that we keep the promises we make to them."
Last month, Sen. Landrieu met with Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell and urged her to use any means necessary to find a solution and expedite the building of the clinics in Southwest Louisiana.
Sen. Landrieu's testimony today follows the successful adoption of her amendment to the FY14 Senate budget that will allow for future funding of these clinics and eliminates one of the budgetary hurdles delaying the construction
In February, Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Boustany introduced the Keep Our Commitment to Veterans Act, which will authorize the Lafayette clinic to stay open, as well as the proposed clinic in Lake Charles.
In September 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) changed its characterization of Major Medical Facility leases, requiring the Veterans Administration to pay for a full 20 years of rent upfront for health clinics. While the leases would have normally cost just more than $126 million, they are now scored at almost $1.4 billion. Due to these costs, 15 clinics across the country could not be authorized in fiscal year 2013, including clinics in Lake Charles and Lafayette.