Amid national VA scandal, local leaders look to future

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 10:14 PM

Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
Email: ttruong@wwltv.com | Twitter: @thanh412

Former VA Eric Shinseki is a decorated war veteran.  That fact endeared him to fellow veterans.  Following his resignation as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, some view that resignation with skepticism. 

"In my opinion, it was political pressure," said Larry Jones. 

Jones is a service officer with VFW Post 8973 working closely with local veterans in the New Orleans area getting them health care and benefits.  He says despite the scandal involving long delays at other VA hospitals, local clinics are providing good and timely care.  Jones says most veterans are satisfied with the level of care within the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. 

"I understand the system here and I help guys every day trying to work their way through that system, and I'm very confident we're not going to have people dying in the street in New Orleans," said Jones. 

There are roughly 60,000 veterans enrolled in the regional VA health care system.  Virtually all rely on a network of clinics for their care since Hurricane Katrina shuttered the former VA Medical Center in New Orleans.  There's growing concern over the time veterans have to wait for health care, and now, a growing number of lawmakers are calling for fixes.

"We need to look at fundamental reforms, reforms like giving veterans a card so that they have a choice in where to get their healthcare, and aren't bound in one system which has backups and wait times through the roof," said Senator David Vitter, (R) Louisiana. 

Senator Vitter said veterans should have the ability to choose to get care at private hospitals if the VA system is unable to fulfill the need.  Senator Vitter said changes to the current VA system should take place before the completion of a new VA Medical Center in New Orleans.  The billion-dollar facility is scheduled to open in Mid City by the end of 2016. 

"Well, it's a beautiful building, the question is what's going to be going on inside?"

"In a statement issued Friday, a spokesperson for the local VA system did not address the controversy over wait times did but refer to the new facility under construction.  A portion of the statement read, "Our future is very bright and our best days are ahead of us."
 

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