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

  1. Man accused of stealing Haley VA patient ID info


    TAMPA — The documents with the Social Security numbers of veterans treated at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center were supposed to be shredded by a company whose website warns, "Don't become a victim of identity theft."

    But the firm, federal prosecutors say, employed a 24-year-old with a criminal history who kept those records out of the shredder, instead selling them to individuals who used the documents to file fraudulent tax returns....

  2. Company: Most cars for relocated troops delivered on time this month


    The company under fire for severe problems in a program that ships the personal vehicles of U.S. troops and civilian defense personnel says it is on track to deliver 90 percent of the cars it is handling on time.

    The catch: That figure includes only vehicles shipped since Aug. 1.

    And this percentage, released by International Auto Logistics of Brunswick, Ga., is still far short of the contractually required 98 percent on-time delivery rate mandated by U.S. Transportation Command....

  3. Military says about 70 percent of troops' vehicles being shipped will be late


    The company hired to deliver the personal vehicles of troops and civilian defense workers around the world has successfully transported just 7,987 of the 27,358 vehicles it is shipping, and 70 percent of those still in transit will arrive late, according to an email by military officials released this week.

    The figures show that an additional 2,250 vehicles are awaiting pickup by their owners. But many have complained that International Auto Logistics of Brunswick, Ga., does not notify them when vehicles arrive at processing centers....

  4. Bill Young VA Medical Center cardiology clinic speeds access to care


    SEMINOLE — With frequent media reports of long wait times at veterans hospitals, Melville "Mac" Gibbons didn't know what to expect when he called the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and asked to see a cardiologist.

    The answer the Navy veteran got surprised him: Come on down. Now.

    The hospital, the fourth-busiest in the Department of Veterans Affairs system, recently launched a new Convenient Cardiology Consult Clinic, or the C-4 Clinic, that allows new cardiology patients to be seen by a heart specialist the same day they are referred by other physicians at the hospital. Such patients had waited an average of 42 days previously, Young VA leaders said....

    Melville “Mac” Gibbons and his wife, Virginia, of St Petersburg visit the C-4 Clinic a day after he was told to come in any time.
  5. Tampa veteran's stolen motorcycle refurbished, returned


    TAMPA — Army veteran Paul Rivera said he was planning to sell his $10,000 customized motorcycle before it was stolen from outside his Tampa apartment on June 18. But he got it back. And he just might keep it forever.

    "I'm never going to get rid of it now," Rivera said.

    With the help of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and others, the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club, Westside Chapter, presented Rivera with his refurbished 2005 Honda CBR600 at the Veterans Memorial Park & Museum on Saturday....

    Iraq War veteran Paul Rivera thanks Westside Nam Knights Motorcycle Club members Travis Wright and Ryan McDonaugh, left, for restoring his stolen motorcycle with the help of donations.
  6. Blame questioned for problems shipping troop vehicles


    Hundreds of U.S. troops and civilian defense workers complain that the company hired to ship their personal vehicles after they relocate is delivering them weeks, even months late.

    The military blames litigation filed by the firm that formerly did the work for the government as the cause of the program's ills. That delayed the start of the new company's work from December to the height of the moving season on May 1, triggering shipping problems, says the U.S. Transportation Command....

  7. New company shipping troop cars plagued by complaints


    Some U.S. troops joke that their missing cars are at the ocean bottom. Photos of absent automobiles are posted online like the images of missing children on milk cartons. A few threatened to file stolen vehicle claims with insurers when a shipping company could not locate their cars.

    "Still missing my husband's truck," Tabitha Nelson Smith posted on Facebook. "They actually called him 2 weeks ago and said his truck was here. He went to pick it up and it wasn't his!!! They were actually going to give him someone else's vehicle. I guess some poor soul on the other side of the world has our truck!"...

     Army Staff Sgt. Christoph Tunis with his wife, Sabrina Tunis.  Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Tunis, a former St. Petersburg resident who is assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, stands next to his 2011 Jeep Compass that was recently shipped from Europe to the United States. The company that shipped it lost track of the car for a time. And now that it has arrived, the custom's paperwork is missing, Tunis said. So he is unable to register the vehicle in the states.
  8. VA apologizes for giving Congress inaccurate info


    The Department of Veterans Affairs apologized Thursday to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee for providing it with inaccurate information in a fact sheet detailing delays in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers.

    The fact sheet, released to the committee in April, said 76 veterans had been seriously harmed, and 23 died, after delays in getting tests that confirmed a GI cancer. In a story earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times reported the fact sheet erroneously suggested the review involved cases going back to 1999 when, in fact, only cases from fiscal 2010 and 2011 were counted....

  9. VA asked to explain inaccurate fact sheet on treatment delays


    A Department of Veterans Affairs review identified 2,078 veterans nationally who waited at least two months in fiscal 2010 and 2011 for tests that found gastrointestinal cancers, a number the agency did not disclose to Congress after it decided almost all were not seriously harmed by delays.

    The figure was provided to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee Monday and came after reports by the Tampa Bay Times that the VA had counted such cases but failed to tell Congress....

  10. VA numbers on treatment delays were misleading


    A Department of Veterans Affairs "fact sheet" told Congress and the public in April that the agency reviewed 250 million medical consultations, dating back to 1999, and found 76 veterans seriously harmed by treatment delays for gastrointestinal cancers. Of them, 23 died.

    Here's what the VA didn't say: Its report included only cases involving veterans harmed in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. Not one of those 23 deaths occurred before 2010....

  11. VA did not reveal all veterans' cancer numbers to Congress


    The Department of Veterans Affairs gave Congress a "fact sheet" in April listing the number of patients seriously harmed by long delays in receiving a gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis at VA hospitals across the nation.

    It said 76 veterans nationally were harmed by such delays. Of those, 23 died, the VA said.

    At the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Seminole, two patients were harmed but survived, the fact sheet said....

    The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Seminole decided to report to Congress only cases where it determined veterans were seriously harmed by delays in receiving consultation for gastro-intestinal cancer.
  12. Worker falls to his death at TECO plant


    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....

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


    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)]
  14. State's lawsuit against Veterans Administration contains errors


    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.
  15. VA calendar lists wrong date for Independence Day


    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....

    A VA spokeswoman said regional officials decided to distribute the 2014 calendars rather than reprint them at great cost.