Jul 29 2014

Montgomery Advertiser: Shelby, Roby call for reforms at CAVHCS

Saying they “have lost trust in the leadership” of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, two members of Congress from Alabama asked the new Veterans Affairs secretary on Tuesday to meet them at the Montgomery facility to discuss problems related to patient care.

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Republican Rep. Martha Roby of Montgomery want VA Secretary Bob McDonald to review allegations of mismanagement at CAVHCS and craft a plan to address them within 60 days.

“I think it’s appalling the way the veterans have been treated for the most part down there, with the waiting lists and so forth,” Shelby said in an interview Tuesday.

McDonald was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday to replace former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned as the national VA scandal worsened.

Shelby and Roby sent McDonald a letter soon after the vote. It mentions the central Alabama system’s longer-than-average waits for veterans to see doctors, efforts to cover up the wait times, lost patient X-rays, and evidence that scheduling staff were instructed to violate VA record-keeping policies.

The problems, including a staff shortage and falsification of patient records by a doctor, have been detailed in a series of stories in the Montgomery Advertiser.

“Instead of swiftly working to fix the serious problems at the CAVHCS, all reports suggest that its leaders are focused on dodging blame and personal cost rather than serving veterans and providing the care and treatment promised,” Shelby and Roby wrote in their letter to McDonald. “We have lost trust in the leadership at CAVHCS.”

Shelby and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions voted to confirm McDonald, a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble.

But Sessions criticized pending legislation designed to address the VA’s problems.

“We can’t borrow money every time we have a crisis,” Sessions said. He did not say how he plans to vote on the $17 billion proposal.

The bill, a compromise reached by the Republican and Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees, would provide $10 billion to increase veterans’ access to non-VA doctors, and $5 billion to hire more VA medical staff and improve VA health facilities.

It also would make it easier to fire or demote VA employees for poor performance or misconduct.

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2014/07/29/shelby-roby-call-reforms-cavhcs/13339783/