By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, June 7, 2017, US Navy veteran and Mayor of Rutledge Steven Phillips expressed his displeasure at the State of Alabama for hiring former Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System chief administrator James Talton after he was fired by the Veterans Administration. Talton has been hired by the Alabama Department of Health.
Phillips told The Alabama Political Reporter, “I was watching the news on Friday 2 June 2017 when I was shocked to see that the Public Health Department of Alabama had lost their mind. Why would anyone hire someone like James Talton that had been fired ‘poor performance and misconduct?’”
Phillips continued, “I am a Retired Senior Chief Machinist Mate who served for 26 years. I cannot for the life of me figure out how someone like that who’s total lack of leadership and management skills which resulted in his firing from the Veterans Administration is and I quote from Tom Miller the State Health Officer “a good fit for the job based on his experience”. You have got to be kidding someone who was terminated from the Veterans administration is a good fit for the citizens of Alabama.”
Phillips said, “I for one being a veteran cannot understand how that could possibly be true Veterans are dying due to the lack of leadership and job performance of senior administrators like this I do not understand why you would want the same for the citizens of Alabama I do not want this kind of service for the Citizens of Rutledge Alabama. Is this the way you serve the Citizens of the State of Alabama?”
CAVHCS was one of the poorest performing VA health care systems in the country according to an internal investigation by the VA, after the press discovered that the VA routinely falsified Veterans’ wait times for care in order for VA administrators could collect bonuses that Congress offered administrators for low wait times for care.
A bipartisan act of Congress was actually passed and signed by President Barack Obama so that incompetent and/or negligent VA administrators could be fired. The first person fired under the new law was James Talton.
US Representative Martha Roby said in a statement when Talton was removed from his position in Montgomery’s CAVHCS, “Leadership starts at the top, and this change in senior management at CAVHCS was sorely needed. I applaud the VA for taking decisive action. Our local system is infested with a culture of complacency when it should in fact be home to a culture of excellence. Congress gave Secretary McDonald the tools he needs to hold people accountable and make improvements in care, and we will expect him to use those tools. We’ve worked very hard to fully understand the problems at CAVHCS, and I think this move is a step toward finding solutions.”
US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) wrote, “When I met with Secretary Robert McDonald last month prior to his confirmation, he assured me that he would act expeditiously to address my and Congresswoman Martha Roby’s concerns about the inexcusable mismanagement of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. His action today in replacing the two top officials in Montgomery who presided over such mistreatment is a promising sign that he is serious about addressing the many problems at the VA across the country, and particularly in Montgomery.”
Phillips told APR, “Let’s just for arguments sake say there are approximately 400 thousand veterans in the state of Alabama, from what I could find there are 4.8 million citizens in Alabama. Now taking these numbers is James Talton really a good Fit for the job based on his experience? I mean he could not handle 400 thousand people now he gets to try and kill 4.8 million? There is nothing about that which makes sense. And as Governor Kay Ivey says state agencies should hire only experienced men and women who are committed to the highest standards of quality, Transparency and Integrity. I fail to see how he meets any of those standards. It appears that someone is playing political games and the stakes are peoples lives.”
Phillips asked, “This is the best you can find? If it is you are not looking hard enough.”