William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers MacDill Air Force Base, the Department of Veterans Affairs and police news.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @WilliamRLevesqu

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  1. Worker falls to his death at TECO plant

    Accidents

    TAMPA — A contractor fell to his death Monday from a catwalk at a Tampa Electric Co. power plant, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

    Bryan Hagan, 31, of Mulberry, who worked for the Southeastern Construction and Maintenance Co., fell through a metal grate on the catwalk in the 1:15 p.m. accident at the Bayside Power Station, according to the Sheriff's Office and a TECO spokeswoman....

  2. Second complaint says Young VA canceled 1,000-plus consultation referrals

    Veterans

    TAMPA — The second whistle-blower complaint in a month about the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center's gastroenterology clinic also accuses the facility of canceling more than 1,000 consultation referrals to the clinic last year without checking to see whether patients had a legitimate or urgent need to be seen by a doctor.

    The anonymous complaint, faxed to the VA's Office of Inspector General on July 2, says gastrointestinal physicians at the Seminole hospital did not have a chance to review the cases before the cancellations and apparently had no input in the decision....

    An aerial view of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times (2013)]
  3. State's lawsuit against Veterans Administration contains errors

    Veterans

    The state's lawsuit seeking the right to inspect Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals makes several startling claims about the care veteran Roland "Dale" Dickerson received at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

    The suit says the Young VA told Dickerson that a heart procedure showed he had a minimal narrowing of his coronary arteries when, in fact, he had a 69 percent blockage. That Dickerson had to get costly private health insurance to pay for heart surgery at a non-VA hospital. That he tried unsuccessfully to get the surgery at St. Petersburg General Hospital but was rejected because of the poor care he got at the VA....

    Roland “Dale” Dickerson of Largo said the VA delayed critical heart tests for more than two years that would have shown he needed immediate heart surgery.
  4. VA calendar lists wrong date for Independence Day

    Veterans

    Attention, veterans: Ignore your 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs calendar.

    Independence Day does not fall on July 3 this year.

    About 357,000 VA calendars given to veterans across most of Florida, southern Georgia and Puerto Rico mistakenly label Thursday, July 3, as Independence Day and remind veterans that VA outpatient clinics are closed today for the holiday.

    Apologies to the Founding Fathers. The Fourth of July still falls on July 4. So VA clinics actually will be closed Friday, not today....

    Department of Veterans Affairs calendar that mistakenly lists Independence Day as July 3.
  5. Complaint: 1,000 Young VA appointments canceled to improve hospital numbers

    Veterans

    SEMINOLE — More than 1,000 appointments to the gastrointestinal clinic at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center were canceled in the past three years to make the facility's numbers look better, according to a recent whistle-blower complaint.

    The complaint, which appears intended for the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general, said the outpatient cancellations in the past "one to three years" were ordered by a senior hospital leader "to make the numbers look good."...

    The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center. [MELISSA LYTTLE | Times]
  6. VA rule changes eliminated thousands of veterans from waiting lists

    Veterans

    The computer scheduling program created in 2002 was supposed to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify veterans who had waited the longest for medical care.

    Officials called it the Electronic Wait List, or EWL. VA employees were told to put new patients with severe medical disabilities linked to their military service on the list after they had waited more than 30 days for an appointment. That way, these veterans could be identified for faster medical care....

    At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, the wait list dropped from 4,981 to 1,800 after it started cutting patients, officials said in 2012. In May, the list was 173, an audit shows.
  7. Plant City student with perfect attendance wins car

    Education

    TAMPA — These high school students are the high achievers who rarely, if ever, miss school. They are the problem solvers, the future engineers or doctors with the smarts to do anything.

    But do they know how to open a car door?

    Toyota of Tampa Bay wasn't planning on giving away two cars again this year.

    More than 350 Hillsborough graduates participated in the fourth annual "Perfect Car for Perfect Attendance" giveaway at the Fletcher Avenue dealership. All qualified to win a 2014 Scion XB worth nearly $19,000 by having had perfect attendance in the first or second semester of the last school year....

    Jose Sanchez-Flores, 19, after winning a 2014 Scion XB by having perfect attendance in the first or second semester of the last school year.
  8. At Gov. Rick Scott's behest, state sues feds for right to inspect VA hospitals

    Veterans

    TAMPA — At the behest of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration sued the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday so its inspectors can gain access to Florida's veterans hospitals.

    The lawsuit accuses the VA of providing substandard medical care to two Tampa Bay veterans, the only patients named in the suit, whose treatment failed to meet the "minimum standards of patient safety."...

  9. Tampa legend Al Austin remembered in Saturday memorial service

    Local

    TAMPA — It might have reminded Al Austin of a political convention had he been alive to witness it. Governors and mayors and politicians of every stripe gathered under one roof, even a Democrat or two.

    This was Austin's kind of crowd.

    Several hundred people gathered at a memorial service Saturday at the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in South Tampa to mark the passing of Austin, a Tampa developer and civic leader who died May 22 in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. He was 85....

    Family friend and University of Tampa president Ronald L. Vaughn uses two props as he speaks during a service celebrating the life of Al Austin on Saturday at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa. Austin died May 22 of an apparent heart attack at age 85.
  10. Pinellas VA hospital used two sets of books for some appointments, testimony shows

    Veterans

    SEMINOLE — The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center uses what employees call "virtual calendars" to make it appear patients are seen by doctors more quickly than is true, according to testimony and documents filed in a 2009 federal lawsuit.

    Plaintiffs said the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital essentially had two sets of books, one with inaccurate numbers on how long patients wait for an appointment and another — the virtual calendars — showing the actual time. ...

    Excerpts from a transcript of a 2009 trial alleging retaliation against employees who filed workplace complaints at what was then Bay Pines VA Medical Center (now C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center).
 
So, if you need actual captions to accompany the individual quotes they would be, respectively:

 3. Dr. Sally Zachariah, a plaintiff in the 2009 lawsuit against Bay Pines VA Medical Center
  11. Gov. Rick Scott to sue VA for 'stonewalling' state health inspectors

    State Roundup

    Florida will sue the Department of Veterans Affairs because the agency is "stonewalling" state health care inspectors who have been denied access to veterans hospitals, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.

    The announcement sets up a legal fight between Florida officials who say they need access to VA facilities and records to protect veterans and VA leaders who insist that no state has oversight of federal hospitals....

    Gov. Rick Scott says the list of allegations is unacceptable.
  12. Hundreds celebrate life of slain 9-year-old Tampa girl

    Crime

    TAMPA

    They gathered to celebrate life, not to dwell on death. So they talked about memories of a 9-year-old girl with an easy smile, a mischievous laugh and the talent of making herself unforgettable.

    They did not want to mark her passing with talk of the kind of unfathomable evil that would have taken third-grader Felecia Williams from her family.

    So on Saturday, they tempered tears with happy memories of a girl whose family called her Sugar Plum....

    Children bring flowers out before family members walk to their cars following a celebration of life for nine-year-old Felecia Williams at The Rock Church of God by Faith on Saturday, May 24, 2014. Services lasted two and a half hours, celebrating the life of the girl known as "Sugar Plum." The church bulletin read: "Homecoming Celebration for Princess Felecia Nicole Williams, AKA "Sugar Plum."
  13. St. Pete veteran dies after VA's delay in cancer diagnosis

    Veterans

    ST. PETERSBURG — Navy veteran Horace J. Lalley suffered urinary tract problems for years with symptoms he regularly reported to doctors at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

    Blood in his urine. A burning sensation and pain when he went to the bathroom. Frequent urination at night.

    The diagnosis again and again: urinary tract infection. But doctors were wrong. In fact, a malignancy was growing in Lalley's bladder....

    Horace Lalley in his Navy uniform in the early to mid 1950s. He served in the  Korean War aboard the USS Chivo.
  14. Special operations forces conferences open this week in Tampa

    Macdill

    TAMPA — The streets are going to be crawling with commandos.

    Two special operations conferences are being held simultaneously at the Tampa Convention Center Tuesday through Thursday, reinforcing Tampa Bay's emerging identity as the place where special operations units come to work and mingle.

    The Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is joining with the International Special Forces Conference, which is hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command, whose headquarters is at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa....

    Instructors, who are current or retired military personnel, show civilians how to use weapons such as AK-47s, AR-15s and Uzis at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office facility.
  15. Police: Body found in bay likely of missing Tampa girl

    Public Safety

    TEMPLE TERRACE — A little body found in the rocks and mangroves on the Pinellas County side of Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon is likely that of a 9-year-old Tampa girl who disappeared a day earlier from a Temple Terrace apartment, authorities said.

    Temple Terrace police said they were "following several leads" in the death of Felecia Nicole Williams. An autopsy is planned for today....

    Felecia Williams