Angry veterans say La. VA care is broken - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Angry veterans say La. VA care is broken

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) -

Some veterans in Louisiana say more vets are killing themselves than dying in combat.

They told state house members today VA health care is broken beyond repair.

He lost hearing in both ears in combat. But he, and many others, say it's the VA that's not listening when it comes to chronic complaints.

"My health care team is not a health care team. It's a kill care team, they're going to kill me," said veteran Richard O'Brien.

One by one veterans went before state lawmakers in an effort to bring change to a system they say lacks doctors and people who care.

Veteran Douglas Ducote did three tours of duty.

"We have a system that's putting vets in a light that the only hope they see is taking their own lives, because they're not getting help," said Ducote.

Much of the problems have been pointed out by people within the system who couldn't stay silent.

"One of the whistleblowers is from our own state," said David LaCerte, head of the State Veteran Affairs Office. "[He] has provided info about Overton Brooks in Shreveport - 2,700 veterans waiting for care and 37 have already died waiting for care."

"it seems we've come to a point where those who have given the most are treated with the least respect," said rep Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier City).

State lawmakers are clearly angry about the stories of alleged VA ineptitude, especially lawmakers who are veterans or who have veterans in the family.

"My son is back after 13-years, and 8-years on the battlefield... Those kids won't be the same," said Rep. Kenny Cox (D-Natchitoches).

Then there's the issue of coverage. There are only three VA medical centers in the state. One in New Orleans, one in Alexandria and a third in Shreveport.

"Lafayette, the Acadiana area, is a large area. Those veterans have to drive to Alexandria," said rep. Terry Landry (D-New Iberia).

Some say it might be time to merge veterans care with civilian care.

"That's a million dollar question. It seems the system is bloated in bureaucracy," said committee chairman, Rep. Nick Lorusso (R-New Orleans).

The Jindal administration wants permission to run a state audit of Louisiana VA facilities.

"It's blatantly stomach turning, that some died while waiting for VA care," said David LaCerte.

"The only reason you guys are sitting there, is because people like me, put on a uniform and defended this country," O'Brien added.

And veterans say until something's done, they'll continue to fight for those who've sacrificed so much.

State lawmakers were angry that no one from the VA chose to attend today's legislative committee meeting.

Friday afternoon, we got a statement from VA spokeswoman Amanda Jones.

"Their mission is to provide veterans with the high quality care they deserve," she stated. She also said that when the new 1.6 million square foot VA hospital is completed in New Orleans sometime next year, they will become a level one medical center with a bright future.

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