Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Offering Quick, Local Care Options for Veterans

January 22, 2016
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

Good news: significant progress was made this week toward improving veterans health care in Alabama through partnering local hospitals with the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) to offer veterans care close to home in a timely manner.

As you probably know, last year VA hospitals in Montgomery and Tuskegee ranked worst and second worst in the country for delays in patient care. Fortunately, things are improving. Wait times are down, staffing is up, and the entire chain of command from Montgomery to Atlanta to Washington has been changed. I’m glad we’re making progress to improve the system as it is, and we’re going to keep at it. But, why stop there? Why not take it to the next level and build something truly special here that can benefit Alabama veterans?

Since the beginning of the VA wait time crisis, hospital leaders, doctors and specialists have reached out to me saying they want to be part of the solution and help the VA deliver care to veterans. However, long-existing disconnects between the VA and outside providers hindered the kind of collaboration you need to actually make it work.

So, this week I gathered hospital leaders, private practitioners, contract specialists and top VA officials to come to the table and work through these challenges. The meeting was very productive, and I believe we have begun the work of building a Veterans Community Health Network that can augment services offered to Alabama veterans and ultimately improve care.

Why should a veteran in Troy or Greenville or Dothan have to drive all the way to Montgomery or Tuskegee or even Atlanta for a doctor’s appointment? Along the way they are going to pass half a dozen hospitals that could easily provide the same care. Why not allow veterans to access care closer to home - if that’s what they want to do?

Allowing veterans to access care in their hometowns just makes sense. It can also help alleviate the demand at VA facilities, driving down wait times even further and allowing VA staff to better tend to patients on their rolls.

I’m optimistic that, working together, we can build a Veterans Community Health Network that improves services for Alabama veterans in a big way. I see this hybrid system as the future of VA healthcare, and why not start it here?

Wouldn’t it be something if here in Alabama, where we were home to the worst wait times in the country, we build something that became a model for the rest of the nation?

Wouldn’t it be something if, one day, instead of looking at Alabama as the example for how things go wrong, the rest of the country looked here for a model for how to improve services for veterans?

We took a positive step in that direction this week, and I look forward to moving ahead on this partnership between the VA and local providers.