By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, December 12, 2016, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) wrote in an email newsletter to constituents that the long troubled Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) is showing improvement.
Congresswoman Roby wrote, “I’m pleased to report that the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS), once ranked the worst in the nation for delays in patient care, has made marked improvements in quality ratings, according to a USA Today/Montgomery Advertiser report. These improvements were brought to light after sources obtained internal documents detailing secret VA quality ratings.”
Rep. Roby said, “I’m absolutely convinced that applying public pressure and consistently holding leaders accountable for results has made all of the difference. I’m proud of the progress that has been made, and I intend to keep pushing for improvement, but I can’t continue to do that if I do not have access to the data. Nor can veterans themselves hold the VA accountable if they don’t have access to this data.”
Roby said, “While I’m encouraged by the recent VA improvements, there’s still a lot to be done. Last week I met with Dr. Linda Boyle, the new CAVHCS Director, for the first time in person. Dr. Boyle is the first permanent director at CAVHCS in more than two years, as the system went through a series interim leaders since former director James Talton was terminated in the wake of the VA wait time scandal.”
The conservative Congresswoman wrote, “Dr. Boyle brings a lot of valuable experience to CAVHCS. Prior to her appointment to CAVHCS, she had been serving as the Associate Director for Patient Care Services at the Alaska VA Healthcare System. Prior to her VA service, Dr. Boyle was the Medical Group Commander at the Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. A retired Colonel of the United States Air Force, Dr. Boyle served on active duty for approximately 24 years as well as five years with the Air National Guard of Pennsylvania. She held a variety of healthcare leadership positions in her military career, including Clinical Specialist and Medical Support Squadron Commander. We are fortunate to have Dr. Boyle at CAVHCS. I really enjoyed meeting her in person, and we had a great conversation about ways we can work together to continue improvements to the veterans health care system. Welcome to the 2nd District, Dr. Boyle!”
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.
According to the VA Inspector General 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.
Representative Roby serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, which has oversight over VA spending.
Congresswoman Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She was recently elected to her fourth term in the United States House of Representatives.