American Legion demands investigation into conditions at Shreveport VA hospital

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The American Legion says it???s ???angered??? to read a Watchdog report the Shreveport (La.) Veterans Administration hospital goes without linens and toiletries while spending millions on non-essentials.

The organization will provide $5,000 worth of emergency supplies within a few days.

???If more is needed, more will be provided,??? the Legion???s national commander, Michael D. Helm, said in a statement. ???While the American Legion family is more than happy to provide this assistance, it is very disturbing that such help is needed.???

A month-long Watchdog investigation revealed that patients at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center frequently have no sheets, blankets or pajamas while waiting for linen supplies to be trucked in from 125 miles away. Employees also say toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other toiletries are provided by volunteers, and the supply often runs out. Frequently linen is tattered or missing buttons and snaps and arrives in an unsanitary condition ??? tape or electrodes still suck on it, employees said.

The VA did not offer to investigate but rather defended its facility by saying laundry is inspected. It did not dispute that supplies of toiletries or linens are scarce.

???We are outraged,??? said William Detweiler, past national commander of the American Legion. ???This is something the VA should be providing, but if they aren???t, we are prepared to come in and provide the basic essentials. According to your story, these veterans have been denied.???

Three employees also told Watchdog the nursing staff is lackluster and patients often go eight hours or more without attention. The American Legion sometimes does its own investigations. The last time it looked at Shreveport was in 2006, Legion officials said.

The American Legion will also be asking newly installed VA Secretary Bill McDonald to investigate the issues surrounding Overton Brooks. McDonald, who has said in media reports he wants to fix any wrongs at the VA, did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

The VA spent $74,412 on two dozen large flat-screen TV???s that roll continuous public service announcements. It also bought $134,082 worth of furniture ??? much of it made in Canada ??? and spent about $3 million on a solar system. A Shreveport ABC affiliate, KTBS, is reporting money used to buy the TV???s was earmarked for an emergency alert system.