Natalie Shepherd / Eyewitness News
BATON ROUGE, La. - It’s a problem heard from veterans across the country – lengthy wait times and poor access to care from VA medical centers.
Advocates for veterans went to Baton Rouge to be heard on the issue Friday.
“The biggest thing you’re going to have is the frustration of having to wait, the frustration of not knowing, the frustration of being put off and delayed,” said Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia.
The House Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs is reviewing the allegations that veterans are facing long times to get medical care. The average wait in Louisiana is between 30 and 55 days.
“A lot of veterans are saying they’ve had enough,” said David LeCerte of the Department of Veterans Affairs. “They’re tired of dealing with it. v Another major complaint is access. Louisiana has three major VA medical centers and a dozen outpatient clinics around the state to serve 312,000 veterans.
“The veterans in Baton Rouge have to travel to New Orleans,” said Landry. “The veterans in Lafayette, New Iberia, Acadiana, they have to drive to Shreveport or Alexandria.”
Veteran advocates say most vets live in rural areas, making it hard to get to the cities. They say there is a need for more satellite offices.
The veterans said they were glad to be heard, but they’d prefer to see the change.
“This system is antiquated, it’s outdated and the VA has never kept up,” said Landry .
“There was a lot of good discussion,” said Myra Viziea an advocate for veterans. “There was a lot of appropriate topics raised. But, it’s like, the proof is in the pudding. What are they going to do about it?”
Federal VA officials refused to attend the state legislative meeting. The committee agreed to try to subpoena federal officials to compel them to attend future hearings.
State officials say, in the end, the fix needs to come from the federal government because the VA is charged with veterans’ primary care.