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Letter to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs - Costly Training Conferences


Location: Unknown

November 8, 2013

Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shinseki:

It has come to my attention that the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform held a hearing yesterday to investigate the planning and execution of a pair of extravagant training conferences in 2011 located in Orlando. As construction of Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in Lafayette, Louisiana and Lake Charles, Louisiana would already be nearing completion if not for your agency's ineptitude, to say I was dismayed would be a gross understatement. It has been reported that the conferences held in July and August 2011 in Orlando cost the taxpayers $6.1 million.

The cost to build and maintain the two clinics in Louisiana previously mentioned would have cost less than $6.1 million, leading me to believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs seems more interested in throwing bureaucratic parties than caring for Louisiana veterans. Last week, John Sepulveda, the top Department of Veterans Affairs official implicated in planning these training conferences, pled the fifth at the hearing. The VA's disregard to discuss their use of taxpayer money is a complete slap to the face of Louisiana veterans who desperately need these clinics to be built.

As you are aware, due to an unexpected change by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in how it estimates the cost of VA clinics, fifteen clinics around the country that were ready to be built were stripped out of a VA authorization bill last year. I have been working for over a year since this occurred on finding a solution to get these clinics built. This includes a call I had with you in January in which I implored you to help find the money to build these clinics. You essentially told me that is not your job.

In light of this shocking investigation, I demand the VA find and allocate the $5,351,424 million needed to build and maintain these two clinics in Southwest-Louisiana. If the money is there to throw $6.1 million events in Orlando, then surely the money to build greatly needed clinics can be found. Please develop a proposal on where the money necessary to complete these two clinics should come from, and please respond to me by no later than December 13, 2013.

Our veterans have served our nation proudly and bravely, and were promised that their healthcare needs would be met. We owe them that. As Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is your duty to see that this promise is adequately and promptly fulfilled.

David Vitter
United States Senate

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