By U. S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL2)
I want to keep you as updated as possible on the latest with our efforts to reform the VA, and a lot has happened in the last week.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed that former Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) Director James Talton and Chief of Staff Cliff Robinson have been given notice of their termination. You may remember that they were placed on administrative leave in August after numerous instances of misconduct, mismanagement and neglect came to light.
This week’s action to move forward with termination is a necessary and important step toward instilling accountability at the VA and building trust within the community. It is also among the VA’s first known use of accountability enhancements included in the VA reform legislation passed in July.
Congress passed and the President signed that law to give newly instated Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald the authority he needed to swiftly fire senior managers for misconduct or poor performance. Many have understandably worried that, despite the new law and public outrage, nothing would really change at the VA. This week’s action is a positive sign that the new VA leadership is committed to removing bad actors and improving the healthcare system.
That being said, I share House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller’s frustration about the length of this process. We passed legislation to remove these barriers that have slowed termination procedures in the past. True accountability comes from swift decisive action, and that’s what I had hoped to see here.
On Friday I went back to the CAVHCS Montgomery campus to meet with Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about the need to overhaul CAVHCS. It is crucial that senior VA officials in Washington see first hand what’s going on here in Central Alabama, so I’m pleased Mr. Gibson came. As I explained to him, this is my district, and these are my veteran constituents who are being mistreated because of the negligence that has occurred here.
My focus is making the Central Alabama VA better for veteran patients who need it. I think we are getting somewhere in terms of convincing VA management to utilize outside local hospitals and doctors to help reduce the wait times and get veterans access to care. I’m going to continue to press the VA. I think it was pretty clear to Mr. Gibson that this remains my priority, and I’m not going anywhere.
Representative Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.