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Roby Says the CAVHS Should Partner with Local Medical Community


By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, September 3, US Representative Martha Roby said that building partnerships between the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) and the local medical community is an important next step to toward improving health services for Alabama veterans.

Rep. Roby’s remarks were made at the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce “Eggs & Issues” event in Downtown Montgomery.  During her annual speech to the Montgomery Chamber’s gathering, Roby told the more than 400 in attendance that she remains involved in trying to effect change at what has been one of the most troubled VA health care systems in the country.

martha-robyRep. Roby said, “One year ago I stood before you and told you about some outrageous problems at the VA: the waitlist manipulation, the missing patient X-Rays, the falsified pulmonology records, and of course, the VA employee who took a recovering veteran to a crack house to use drugs and prostitutes to extort his VA benefits. I told you that day that I would not let up on this fight to improve the VA. I haven’t let up, and I will continue to fight until veterans are able to access the quality health care they have earned.”

VA wait times have been a problem for years.  Congress instituted a bonus system where administrators would get paid bonuses for shortening the wait.  At some point, VA administrators began keeping a separate set of books where veterans were kept off the books so the administrators could collect the bonuses.  The scheme was uncovered in Arizona.  Investigators quickly learned that it was a nationwide scandal.  CAVHCS was exposed as one of the worst VA systems in the country.

Last year, Rep. Roby worked with whistleblowers and news outlets to expose major instances of mismanagement, malfeasance and cover-up inside CAVHCS.  The then-director, James Talton, became the first VA manager fired under a new accountability law passed by Congress.  Improve access to care however has been slow.

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According to Rep. Roby more than 4,000 veteran patients have waited longer than 90 days without an appointment.  Congresswoman Roby recently met with Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson in Montgomery.

Rep. Roby said, “I believe the future of veterans’ healthcare will be relying less on traditional VA facilities and more on local, outside providers. We have amazing hospitals and doctors here in Central Alabama, and there are existing, well-funded programs in place to connect veterans to that care. The problem is, the Central Alabama VA earned a bad reputation for not paying its bills under its previous leadership, and that has left many hospitals and other providers understandably hesitant to enter into contracts.”

Congresswoman Roby said, “I want to help repair this relationship between the VA and local providers so that our local hospitals and doctors throughout Alabama can play an increased role in caring for our veterans. So, I will be reaching out to bring the new VA leadership and the Alabama medical community to the table to try to bridge this gap.  I believe we if we work together it can make a real difference toward access to quality care for veterans here in Alabama.”

Roby said she that is working to build support for her bill, HR3234, the Failing VA Medical Center Recovery Act, would require national VA leaders to takeover perpetually failing facilities.  Roby said that the process would be similar to how a state department of education takes over continually failing schools.

A new Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General (IG) report confirmed many of the worst allegations about the VA.  The IG report estimates that over 300,000 veterans have died after asking for care that they never received.  The IG estimates that another 600,000+ are still languishing on waiting lists hoping to receive treatment.

The IG report says that there are “serious” problems with enrollment data are making it impossible to determine exactly how many veterans are actively seeking health care from the VA, and how many were. For example, “data limitations” prevent investigators from determining how many now-deceased veterans applied for health care benefits or when.

The IG report said that the problem has existed for almost two decades.

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The IG was highly critical of the VA’s record-keeping itself.  More than half the applications listed as pending as of last year do not have application dates so investigators “could not reliably determine how many records were associated with actual applications for enrollment” in VA health care, the report said.  Perhaps even more troubling the IG said that thousands of unprocessed health-care applications were incorrectly marked as “incomplete” so estimates that 10,000 or more electronic requests for care were accidentally deleted.

Linda Halliday, the VA’s acting inspector general, said that the records system needs to be improved and at this time there is no way to know for sure when or why the veterans died.

Some critics of the VA’s troubled Health Care System argue that the socialist model of government owned hospitals, managed by government bureaucrats, staffed by government employed doctors is inherently flawed and is not capable of meeting the needs of veterans.  They argue for a more market driven model where the government honors its commitments to veterans but the veterans can get care from the providers of their choice, similar to Medicare or health insurance.

Congress will return from its August recess after Labor Day.

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.  Roby was first elected to Congress in 2010 when she unseated Congressman Bobby Bright (D).


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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