The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is deliberately delaying the building of a Veterans Affairs Clinic in Lafayette, La. because of a contract involving religious freedom.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who has been at the forefront of the issues and scandals plaguing the VA Dept., sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald asking why the VA is rejecting a contract for a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Lafayette.
The VA reportedly pursued a contract with Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, but has now rejected the contract for its inclusion of religious freedom language.
Ethical and Religious Directives (EDR) for Catholic Health Care Services have been required for all hospital affiliation agreements with Catholic hospitals since 1994, including those previously established by the VA in the past 20 years.
Vitter said the deliberate delay is not a legitimate reason for the VA to entirely halt the Lafayette VA clinic.
“The VA absolutely should have known about religious freedom requirements with Catholic hospitals—it has even had to address these issues in Baton Rouge before,” said Vitter in a news release. “This isn’t a legitimate delay. It looks like a deliberate attempt by the VA to conceal its continued inability to get this desperately-needed facility built in Lafayette,” Vitter said. “The VA has had more than enough time to get this project moving, and all the while our veterans have been put on hold. We finally have an opportunity to move forward. The VA needs to quit dragging its feet once and for all.”
In May, the VA announced that it would issue a formal Request for Lease Proposal for a temporary clinic in Lafayette sometime in spring of 2015, estimating a lease would be awarded for a temporary clinic at the end of summer 2015.
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson visited Louisiana in February at the urging of Vitter and Congressman Charles Boustany (R-La.). Vitter and Boustany followed up with McDonald in March to call attention to the immediate need for a clinic in Lake Charles.
Vitter secured language authorizing both the Lafayette and Lake Charles clinics in the Senate’s veterans legislation last year. Vitter started working to authorize the Lake Charles and Lafayette VA clinics in 2010.
On six separate occasions last year, Vitter pushed for unanimous consent for his legislation authorizing the stalled VA clinics..The VA announced delays of construction deadlines for new veterans’ health clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles in December 2014.