By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, January 4, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) will meet with new VA Southeast Network Director Leslie Wiggins Monday, January 4, and the two will address the media about the issues that have plagued the US Veterans Department health care facilities for our Nation’s Veterans.
Director Wiggins previously was the director of the Atlanta VA Medical Center. She will now oversee VA health operations for the Southeast region that includes the troubled Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS). Ms. Wiggins is also a former VA Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Labor-Management Relations.
Congresswoman Roby and Director Wiggins will discuss the next steps in overhauling the CAVHCS, and specifically selecting a permanent director for the troubled system.
Roby has been pushing national, regional and local VA leaders to improve services at the Central Alabama VA since the system became embroiled in the patient wait time manipulation scandal.
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. In one of the more outrageous example of VA incompetence, one employee was caught transporting a patient to buy drugs and prostitute services and the employee was kept on the payroll. Improving access to care however has been slow. A permanent director for CAVHCS still has not been named, even though the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the VA Undersecretary for Health, and VA Southeast Network Director have all been replaced.
More than 4,000 veteran patients reportedly have waited longer than 90 days without receiving an initial appointment after contacting CAVHCS requesting services.
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 intrinsically flawed and is not capable of meeting the needs of veterans and that a more free market approach is needed 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.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Roby was first elected to Congress in 2010 when she unseated Congressman Bobby Bright (D).