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VA secretary out amid patient care scandal

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BATON ROUGE - Gov. Bobby Jindal's veterans affairs secretary has abruptly resigned, amid an investigation from the inspector general's office.

Without explanation, Jindal's office announced Thursday that David LaCerte had left the position he's held since June 2014, effective immediately.

Robin Keller, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, confirmed that the agency had been contacted by the inspector general's office. She said she doesn't know what is being investigated. Keller said Lacerte's only words were, "I'm resigning effective immediately."

Keller said: "I know it's ongoing, and I know we're going to cooperate. Meanwhile, we're just going to continue focusing on the care of our veterans."

Sources told the WBRZ Investigative Unit Thursday, the resignation comes amid frustration from lawmakers at the capitol over allegations workers at VA homes in Louisiana were not taking proper care of patients.

In some cases, auditors found people in the care of the five homes were allowed to drink on medication and drive, injured in various ways or not being properly supervised.  In a hearing with lawmakers recently, LaCerte argued issues were being handled and proper care was being administered.  

"We went out to look at the War Veterans' Home to see if they are actually performing those policies procedures and protocols and we found in some cases, they were not," the Louisiana Legistaive Auditor, Daryl Purpera, said.

The governor has named his office's chief lawyer, Thomas Enright, to work as interim secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and to continue as executive counsel for the governor until Jindal's term ends in mid-January.

"I know and respect a great deal Sec. Enright.  I think that somewhat changes our focus to try to assist him and I know very much he'll be focused on the care of veterans," Greg Phares of the Inspector General's Office said.

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