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. VA settles suit by its police officers at Young VA for nearly $1 million


    The Department of Veterans Affairs has formally settled a federal lawsuit filed by eight agency police officers who worked at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center for $960,000, according to court documents filed Monday.

    With recent settlements to three other VA police officers at the Pinellas facility, the total payout by the VA is $1.3 million.

    Such settlements are usually confidential, and the public rarely sees confirmation of cash paid out. But in a highly unusual move, the officers' attorney, Ward Meythaler, and the VA asked a federal judge in Tampa to enforce the terms of the settlement. The court file does not show why they made the request....

  2. Military car shipping dispute worsens program's problems


    International Auto Logistics accused another company of holding the personal vehicles of troops "hostage." The supposed hostage taker, Liberty Global Logistics, shot back that IAL was defaming it.

    "Candidly, we are tired of your threats," a top IAL executive told the firm. Liberty indicated it was tired of IAL's "empty promises."

    Are the firms bitter rivals? Actually, they're on the same team shipping the personal vehicles of U.S. troops....

  3. Lawsuit: VA ignored test result of Clearwater veteran, 'caused his death'


    A Clearwater resident died of colon cancer after his doctor at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center failed for three years to investigate a test showing the veteran had blood in his stool, a federal lawsuit claims.

    The wife of William B. Halverson filed suit in Tampa federal court Thursday seeking unspecified damages. Halverson died on Feb. 6, 2013, at age 64.

    The suit comes several months after the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report showing 76 veterans nationally were seriously harmed by long delays in getting gastrointestinal consultations. Of those, 24 died, the VA reported....

  4. 1984 VA death was ruled a suicide, but was it really murder?

    Human Interest

    An hour or so before midnight on Aug. 27, 1984, Bud Thompson put on his light blue pajamas, tossed his clothes in a paper bag that he shoved in a closet and climbed into bed. He locked away his belt with his dirty clothes.

    Thompson removed his socks and put his black dress shoes — size 10E — on the floor by his hospital bed in the mental health unit at the VA hospital at Bay Pines....

    Bud Thompson in his Army uniform at home in New Jersey during World War II. He was badly injured shortly after D-day when his supply truck was bombed by a German plane. “He died in Europe, to a certain extent,” a brother says.
  5. Mom, dad, daughter and new boyfriend identified as Pasco murder victims


    HUDSON — Their last Pennsylvania winter behind them, Maggie and Greg Brown packed up the RV and set out for Florida.

    Paradise, Maggie told her friends. Shopping in Miami. The Keys in winter. Beaches and sunsets in between.

    After the long trip south, they moved two months ago to a rented Hudson home with a swimming pool and a hot tub and a boat dock. They settled in with daughter Megan, grandson Tristan, and Megan's former boyfriend, Adam, the boy's father....

    Four people were found dead Thursday after investigators went to a house on Hatteras Drive in Hudson on a welfare check of the residents.
  6. VA hears veterans' concerns about care at Tampa town hall meeting


    SEMINOLE — Compliments are up. A backlog of benefits claims is down.

    That was the message from Department of Veterans Affairs officials who held a town hall meeting at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center on Wednesday where they emphasized the positive and largely sidestepped discussion about recent controversies that have dogged the agency.

    The meeting, and others like it held across the nation, are part of the VA's response to calls for improved communication with veterans in the wake of one of the worst scandals in the agency's history....

    Air Force veteran Ed Moody of Pinellas Park asks a question Wednesday during a town hall meeting at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center. VA officials largely sidestepped discussions about recent controversies the agency is involved in.
  7. Young VA settling retaliation lawsuit by its police officers


    The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and up to eight officers who served on the facility's internal police force have tentatively agreed to settle a 4-year-old lawsuit that accused the hospital's leaders of retaliating against them for workplace discrimination complaints.

    The settlement, whose terms are not public, comes five years after a federal judge in a separate case warned leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Seminole to stop retaliating against employees who file such complaints....

    The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Seminole. [MELISSA LYTTLE | Times]
  8. Two critically injured in Tampa house fire


    TAMPA — Timothy Mendenall said his dog may have saved his life with its incessant barking.

    He opened his bedroom door at 2 a.m. Saturday and saw a sofa in flames. A bed in his friend's room also was burning. Mendenall and the friend quickly filled pots with water from the sink to douse the flames. In seconds, neighbors jumped in to help. Someone sprayed flames with a garden hose.

    They quickly put the fire out. But the friend who shares the 3001 E Ida St. house in east Tampa with Mendenall, and the friend's girlfriend, were critically injured in the fire early Saturday that investigators say may have been arson related to a domestic dispute....

  9. Gen. Joseph Votel takes over U.S. Special Operations Command during ceremony in Tampa


    TAMPA — A general who is rarely quoted in the media and has risen to the highest ranks of the military faster than almost any recent commander is the new chief of the nation's secretive commando forces.

    Army Gen. Joseph Votel III, 56, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an Army Ranger, took the helm Thursday of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base during a ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center....

    Army Gen. Joseph Votel III, 56, left, and Adm. William McRaven, 58, whom Votel is replacing, acknowledge the change of leadership for the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base at Thursday’s ceremony in Tampa.
  10. 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....

  11. 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....

  12. 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....

  13. 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....

    Bill Young VA cardiologist William Corin talks with Melville “Mac” Gibbons at the Convenient Cardiology Consult Clinic.
  14. 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....

    Paul Rivera got his bike back Saturday after it was stolen and trashed.
  15. 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....