No estimated completion date for the clinic was provided. But the VA said a deal for the clinic could be wrapped up by the end of the summer, and it earlier estimated a six-month construction schedule.
The VA also is moving forward with a temporary clinic in Lafayette to expand service there while a new, permanent clinic is built, Boustany and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said. That permanent clinic is planned for completion in the fall of 2016.
The VA originally said in 2014 that the Lafayette clinic would open in early 2016 and the Lake Charles clinic in late 2015, but both projects have encountered delays.
Currently, the VA operates a mobile clinic in Lake Charles and a small clinic in Lafayette. The agency promised replacements more than six years ago, Boustany has said.
The path to opening the new clinics was smoothed last year when President Barack Obama signed a VA reform bill that included approval for those outpatient clinics and 24 others around the country.
The existing Lafayette VA clinic occupies the War Memorial Building at 2100 Jefferson St. The new clinic, which will move to a building constructed for it on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, should be roughly double the size of the current one, the VA has said.
The mobile clinic in Lake Charles includes a primary-care team working in two examination rooms.
Neither of the Southwest Louisiana clinics is considered sufficient by the agency for the medical needs of veterans in the area. Both are in Boustany’s congressional district.
Both clinics are administered by the VA health center in Pineville, the nearest full-service VA hospital. The VA operates two other hospitals in Louisiana, in New Orleans and in Shreveport. Nationwide, the agency – the largest single U.S. health care provider – treats 9 million patients at 150 hospitals and 820 clinics.
Congress approved the VA reform bill as a response to the national uproar over veterans’ health care following reports that surfaced in April that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting an average of 115 days for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital or its clinics. Investigators subsequently found long wait times, and falsified records covering them up, at other VA facilities nationwide.