Rep. Martha Roby calls for president to fire embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki
Rep. Martha Roby is calling on the president to fire embattled Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in the wake of controversies over patient care.
"Secretary Shinseki serves at the pleasure of the president," Rep. Roby, R-Montgomery, said. "By allowing him to continue, President Obama sends precisely the wrong message that failure actually will be tolerated at the VA. "The absence of accountability only begets a culture of complacency. President Obama must end that immediately by removing Secretary Shinseki and installing new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs."
Shinseki has been under fire after reports surfaced that some veterans had died while waiting for care at VA hospitals and that other facilities maintained secret waiting lists of those needing medical care. A growing chorus of lawmakers has called on Shinseki to resign but he has resisted and the president, while saying he will demand accountability from VA leaders, has not called on the retired four-star general to leave his post.
A report issued last year showed the VA regional office in Montgomery had the nation's sixth-highest number of claims at the appeals level, ranking only behind much larger cities as St. Petersburg, Fla., Houston and Atlanta.
Last week, the VA Inspector General released an audit showing the podiatry clinic at Maxwell Air Force Base was insufficiently staffed, causing veterans to have to wait to be seen.
Patient-Centered Community Care program
Roby said the delays in care are the reason the VA needs to utilize its Patient-Centered Community Care program that allows it to contract with local non-VA health care providers for services like mental health care or specialized treatment. Roby said such fee-based programs could improve access to care, especially in places where demand exceeds the local facility's resources and personnel.
"I hear from veterans everyday who are waiting on services from the VA. We know there is increased demand, so why not utilize this existing Patient Centered Community Care program to contract out services to local providers and get veteran patients the care they need?" she said.
Roby worked to have language included in the 2015 Military Construction and VA Appropriations Committee Report directing the VA to document the performance of PCCC in an effort to determine if the program is a viable alternative to existing efforts.
"This is one way we can help eliminate long wait times and reduce costs for the VA," she said.