Jun 27, 2014 7:08 PM by Akeam Ashford

Baton Rouge: Military Service Members Testify Before House

Military service members testified before lawmakers in Baton Rouge today about the problems they face when seeking treatment at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals.

Chairman of The Special Committee on Military & Veterans Affairs, Nick Lorusso, a Republican from New Orleans, called the meeting to hear testimony from service members on problems they face when trying to receive medical treatment.

"You know I'd like to see a whole revamping of the VA medical system. I know that's a big ask, but I think it's necessary and the problems we're seeing now make it necessary," Lorusso said.

According to VA healthcare professionals, mental health illness is the largest problem facing veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year, the VA paid $1.1 billion in compensation benefits to veterans.

Veterans who can't get to VA hospitals because they live too far away usually go to VA service clinics in their parish.

"We need to fight real world, real adequate reforms that are going to revolutionize the VA so that we're not right back here in five to ten years," said David LaCerte, newly appointed Louisiana Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

LaCerte said 21 veterans and one active duty soldier commit suicide every day.

In Washington, D.C., Congress is working on a bill that would expand the range of VA healthcare for veterans who live more than 40 miles away from a care facility, or have waited more than 30 days for care.

The bill would also create new VA hospitals in Lake Charles and Lafayette.

Finally, the bill would also give the federal VA secretary scope to fire VA administrators without certain limitations and oversight.

Representative Terry Landry (D-New Iberia) said he would like to see veterans returning home from combat no longer treated as second class citizens.

"The system was built in World War II and I doubt if there's been any major modification. We have to force Congress and the federal government to change with the times," said Landry.



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