Ripon Advance: Veterans' healthcare 'just isn’t working,' Roby tells VA Secretary
Healthcare for United States military veterans falls far short of its intended mission and there are deplorable examples in Alabama, said U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) during a Tuesday oversight hearing on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“I would like to invite you to Alabama to visit the VA so you can see firsthand what is happening,” Rep. Roby told VA Secretary Roger Wilkie and Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA), during the Feb. 26 hearing held by the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.
“This is not working,” said Rep. Roby. “It is not the way it should be and it is a huge disservice to our men and women who have served our country.”
The congresswoman voiced her frustration with failing VA medical facilities, pointing to her home state’s Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) as an example, where she said, “there’s a culture of complacency and gross mismanagement.”
“We should want every single VA health care system in this nation to be the very best it can be for our veterans,” she said. “But at CAVHCS we are unable to get simple things right, and it extends on to very egregious behavior. I am tired of getting status quo answers as to why CAVHCS continues to be one of the worst in the nation.”
Rep. Roby told Wilkie and Stone, who were testifying before the subcommittee, that VA Under Secretary for Clinical Health Dr. Teresa Boyd testified earlier this month about the current state of CAVHCS, as well as that of the VA Southeast Network (VISN 7), one of the VHA’s 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs).
VISN 7 is comprised of eight VA medical centers and numerous outpatient clinics located throughout most of the states of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina in a geographic area spanning more than 124,500 square miles, according to the VHA.
“During my time in Congress, I have worked diligently with leadership at CAVHCS and VISN 7 to make sure that our veterans are receiving the best care we can give them,” Rep. Roby said. “As I said to Dr. Boyd, we don’t know each other well, but you will learn that I am very passionate about this issue and I am very frustrated.”
For instance, the lawmaker said she doesn’t understand why the VA works on a bell curve that always puts someone at the bottom of the barrel with a one-star rating.
“We should want every single VA health care system in this nation to be the very best it can be for our veterans,” she said. “But we’re unable to get simple things right, like just saying ‘hello’ and greeting a veteran when they come in for their appointment to make them feel valued and like someone cares.”
Roby said her goal is to be in a grocery store and have a U.S. veteran approach her and express how wonderful an experience he or she had at the VA.
Conversely, she said, it’s not “to have to look into a man or woman’s eyes who has served our country honorably and see tears in their eyes because they have just flat out given up because they cannot get appropriate care.”
By inviting the VA administrators to visit Alabama, Roby said she’s hopeful they might come to understand and fully appreciate what’s happening in the VA facilities there and around the country.