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Congressman Ralph Abraham

Representing the 5th District of Louisiana

Abraham opposes VA choice to head Louisiana operations

January 19, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, opposes the Department of Veteran Affairs’ choice to head up health care operations in Louisiana and Mississippi due to the appointee’s involvement in the ongoing scandal regarding VA wait times.

VA Sec. Bob McDonald has appointed Skye McDougall to head the South Central Veterans Administration Health Care Network (VISN 16). Medical centers in Alexandria, Shreveport and New Orleans are included in her network.

Dr. Abraham, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and is the chairman of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs subcommittee, wrote McDonald on Friday, Jan. 15, to oppose McDougall’s appointment.

In February 2015, McDougall testified before Congress that wait times at her previous post in Los Angeles were only four days for new patients. Investigative reports revealed that McDougall’s testimony was false and that average wait times were actually more than 40 days.

“It is imperative that VISN 16 be managed by a director whose hands are clean of this scandal and who understands that acknowledging existing faults and holding those accountable are the first real steps to fixing a broken system,” Dr. Abraham wrote in the letter.

The VA originally planned to appoint McDougall to a position in Phoenix where at least 40 veterans are reported to have died while waiting care. After Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., objected, the VA searched for a new post for McDougall where she eventually landed at VISN 16, which oversees Shreveport’s Overton Brooks medical center where 37 veterans are reported to have died while waiting for care. It has been common practice for the VA to shuffle employees involved in the wait time scandal rather than holding those employees accountable.

“Louisiana should not be a dumping ground for the VA’s unwanted employees,” Dr. Abraham said. “This case shows yet another example of the VA working to protect high-level bureaucrats instead of serving our veterans. It is imperative we make the VA Accountability Act law so that we can root out these entrenched bureaucrats and get our nation’s heroes the care they deserve.”