By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery said on Tuesday, August 27 that recent actions taken to instill accountability and improve access to care are promising signs that the Department of Veterans Affairs is serious about addressing the immediate needs of veterans.
Representative Martha Roby (R) said that recent actions are promising including: the removal of the director and chief of staff from authority at the troubled Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS); a commitment to overhauling the patient scheduling process by taking proposals from outside, professional vendors; and adding primary care to services covered by Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3), a program supported by Rep. Roby which connects veterans with local non-VA providers for timely services. Roby said that the results will ultimately determine success.
Rep. Roby said, “The VA has demonstrated more action toward instilling accountability and improving care in the last two weeks than in the last two years. I’m hopeful these latest actions show that the old ways of doing business won’t cut it anymore at the VA….I appreciate Secretary McDonald listening to the concerns we’ve raised over the last several weeks and acting to shakeup the management at the Central Alabama VA. There has clearly been a leadership problem in Central Alabama, and this was an important first step toward changing the culture of complacency that has left so many veterans behind.”
Rep. Roby concluded, “Make no mistake, change will take time. Fixing decade’s worth of problems at the VA will not happen overnight. We must remain vigilant in seeing these promising reforms through. These latest actions shows strides toward progress, but we will keep a watchful eye to make sure the promises are met with results for our veterans.”
On Friday, Rep. Roby wrote in a statement, “My office has been digging into serious allegations of mismanagement, negligence and cover-up within CAVHCS for some time now. A major part of discovering the extent of the issues at the facility has come from the information provided by whistle blowers. I want to thank all those who had the courage to step forward and provide this necessary information.”
Late Thursday the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed that both CAVHCS Director James Talton and Chief of Staff Dr. Cliff Robinson have been removed from their positions. The VA has named Robin Jackson, Ph.D., as the acting medical center Director at CAVHCS, and Srinivas Ginjupalli, M.D., has been named the acting Chief of Staff. Dr. Jackson is the deputy network director at the VA Southeast Network in Duluth, Ga. while Dr. Ginjupalli is the deputy chief of staff at CAVHCS. According to the VA, both Director Talton and Dr. Robinson have been placed on administrative leave.
Congresswoman Roby said in a written statement immediately following the move, “Leadership starts at the top, and this change in senior management at CAVHCS was sorely needed. I applaud the VA for taking decisive action. Our local system is infested with a culture of complacency when it should in fact be home to a culture of excellence. Congress gave Secretary McDonald the tools he needs to hold people accountable and make improvements in care, and we will expect him to use those tools. We’ve worked very hard to fully understand the problems at CAVHCS, and I think this move is a step toward finding solutions—but it is only one step.”
Rep. Roby has been an outspoken advocate of the Department utilizing the Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) program to improve veterans’ access to care. The PC3 program was initiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013 to allow veterans to access health care services that are not offered by their local VA medical centers or for those that come with especially long wait times. PC3 lets veterans get care from local, non-VA health care healthcare providers. Recently VA reform legislation requires that the VA offer PC3 or similar non-VA care to any veteran who cannot schedule an appointment within 30 days or who lives more than 40 miles from their nearest VA clinic.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.