By U. S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL2)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – UPDATE: This week I went to the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System’s (CAVHCS) Montgomery campus to meet with acting director Robin Jackson, Southeast regional director Chuck Sepich, and acting chief of staff Dr. Srinivas Ginjupalli. I asked for this meeting because it has been five weeks since the former director and chief of staff were removed, and I wanted to meet the new leadership and assess their progress toward instilling transparency and accountability at CAVHCS.
I did not hold back in describing my own level of distrust for the VA as an institution, which is the result of years and years of mismanagement and neglect. I felt it was important to convey the frustration of my veteran constituents and their families over the unacceptable failures that we have been able to expose over the last few months.
That said, we had a good discussion about what change needs to look like, both in the immediate future and long term. They explained that efforts to hold problem employees accountable are underway. They also demonstrated a commitment to utilizing the Patient-Centered Community Care program to connect veteran patients with local providers to reduce wait times – a welcome change from the previous leadership.
Both of these developments are very positive. However, I’ll tell you what I told them: promises are great, but action is what really matters. We need to see real results in improving access to care for veterans, not just talk.
For example, it was recently reported that wait times for scheduling appointments in Central Alabama have been reduced by about a third. While that sounds good, I continue to hear from veteran constituents that, after originally scheduling the appointments, the VA frequently cancels and postpones the actual visit. That means that while wait time for scheduling the appointment was technically reduced on paper, the doctor visit may not have even taken place.
This kind of manipulation is what got the VA into its current mess in the first place, and I will be watching very closely to ensure this behavior does not continue.
I appreciate the new leadership taking the time to meet with me and their willingness to candidly discuss the many issues that have plagued CAVHCS recently. I don’t think there is any doubt in their minds about how important it is to our community that area veterans be treated properly by the VA.
There is a long way to go toward rebuilding trust with the VA. But, I hope this week was an important first step in that process.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is currently serving her second term.