LA VA secretary calls for Overton Brooks investigation - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

LA VA secretary calls for Overton Brooks investigation

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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

Louisiana Veterans Affairs Secretary David LaCerte is calling for a thorough investigation of scheduling practices at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport.

LaCerte also revealed that his department has already sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking for states to have the authority to audit VA facilities.

Lacerte made the remarks immediately after attending a public meeting Thursday hosted by a committee of the Caddo Parish Commission at Government Plaza in downtown Shreveport.

"We as a state, we're required to be audited by the federal government," he said. "But, what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander with the VA. They don't have anyone to report to from the state level so I think it's time that changed."

Overton Brooks' Interim Director Toby Mathew talked about the success stories at the facility, adding: "We are very pleased about the service that we provide."

But right after the public meeting, Mathew quickly left the room, leaving the media asking to speak with Overton's Public Affairs Officer Sandy Franks. Here's how the exchange went:

Reporter: "Can we get a word with you please?"

Sandy Franks: "No I'm going to, I have to um..."

Reporter: "It'll take just a second."

Sandy Franks: "No, I'm going to go back with my boss right now, okay?"

Ironically, during the meeting Mathew had just spoken about the need for more transparency of the VA system. That fact was not lost on the media, which led to this exchange:

Reporter: "What about the transparency thing that you were talking about? Your department's not really being very transparent with us."

Sandy Franks: "Just give me a moment to be back with my boss and I'll be back in just a few minutes."

Reporter: "Okay."

The media was later told there would be no on-camera interviews. All this did not sit well with LaCerte who said the VA headquarters has plenty of spokespersons to field questions.

"I think the VA has, you know, 56 full-time public information officers in Washington D.C., sitting on their hands," he said. "And it's important they answer questions not only from the national media but local media and local officials as well."

LaCerte has questions of his own, lots of them, such as claims that there are 2,600 veterans waiting for mental health appointments with Overton Brooks.

"I don't know who to believe. I don't know what to believe," he said. "We have a whistle-blower saying one thing. We have the VA saying that they see mental health appointments within two days. And those numbers are irreconcilable."

He explained the need for an investigation of Overton Brooks.

"The only way we're going to get to the bottom of this is with an outside opinion, an independent person outside of the VA inspector general," he said.

Sandy Franks later told news crews that they would respond to questions through email, even though they declined any on-camera interviews. But KSLA News 12's request for an interview sent by email last week has been unreturned.

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