SHREVEPORT – Richard "Ricky" John, candidate for the 4th U.S. Congressional District seat, says he will continue to represent local Veterans Affairs (VA) whistleblower Shae Wilkes through his campaign.
Assuming he wins the election and begins serving in Congress, his co-counsel will continue to represent Wilkes, John said in an email to the Louisiana Record.
"I have practiced law for the last 22 years," the Shreveport attorney and businessman, who announced his candidacy earlier this year, said. "During that time period, I have successfully balanced my legal practice, various business interests, raising a family and helping operate Soldiers Angels, one of America's most active military support organizations. I expect to continue to be involved in representing Mr. Wilkes throughout the campaign and helping him continue to fight for reform in the VA system.
Wilkes is aware of these plans, John said.
"Once I am elected to Congress, Mr. Wilkes understands that I will no longer be able to represent him personally, but instead I will be in a better position to be an advocate in Congress for our veterans," John said. "As a congressman, I will continue to hold the VA and its leadership accountable for the treatment they provide to our veterans; I will work to trim the fat from the VA's bloated bureaucracy; and I will champion veteran issues to ensure that our country lives up to the promises we have made to our veterans."
John is seeking the seat of U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), who has announced his own plans to run for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).
The 47-year-old John is a founding partner of the law firm of Smith & John and a partner in Landmark Title Group of Shreveport. He is married with three children and a lifelong resident of Shreveport. In addition to serving as National Guard Liaison for Soldiers’ Angels, John also has been chairman and legal counsel of the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.
John has represented Wilkes since 2014, the same year the mental health social worker and Afghanistan veteran revealed the use of a secret appointment wait list at the Shreveport VA hospital, a list that included 37 veterans who died awaiting care.
Wilkes is one of a handful of VA whistleblowers who've come forward with allegations that include violations of scheduling rules, hiding delays in seeing patients and providing substandard care in a number of the nation's veteran's medical facilities. All of the whistleblowers immediately faced criminal investigations by the VA's Office of Inspector General, actions the whistleblowers supporters claim were retaliatory.
In late February, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a letter to President Barack Obama that the Inspector General's office tried to discredit the whistleblowers rather than review their allegations.
With investigations in these allegations still ongoing, it's not clear where Wilkes' case is headed but he will be well represented, John said.
"If Mr. Wilkes has any issues remaining after my election, my co-counsel in his case, Mr. Tom Devine, with the Government Accountability Project, will continue to represent him," John said.