Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Roby: VA Needs Takeover Mechanism for Failing Systems

April 23, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Veterans Affairs needs a mechanism to take over VA medical centers that perpetually fail to meet basic standards, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) said Thursday. 

In an interview with WSFA News, Rep. Roby said just like a state superintendent of education would take over a perpetually failing school, the Secretary of the VA needs the authority and tools to take over VA facilities that continue to fail veterans. Such a mechanism would mean greater accountability for the VA, both by making top national VA leaders directly and personally responsible for improvements and by putting troubled systems on notice of the consequences of continued failure. 

“If a school is failing, the state comes in and takes over that system. And everybody there is aware of [those consequences]: the principal, the teachers, the parents. We want the same thing now in the VA. Where a [local] VA system is consistently failing, we want the VA to come in – the Washington VA – and take over,” Rep. Roby said.  

Roby has said that she envisions a rapid response team that brings with it robust legal powers to hire new workers, expedite transfers of proven professionals into the system and fire poor performers. The VA has been plagued by an inability to remove problem employees that are holding back failing medical centers and hurting patient care.

Currently, the VA’s ability to improve poor performing systems centers on temporary advisors that offer counsel and information on best practices. Roby said that sort of “incremental improvement” approach is simply inadequate for the systems that rate among the worst of the worst.

The long-troubled Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System was recently reported as having the worst average nationwide for completed patient appointments. Rep. Roby has said she has grown increasingly frustrated by unfulfilled promises from Washington leaders about fixing the problems at CAVHCS. 

This week during the Appropriations Committee markup, Rep. Roby successfully inserted language in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee Report calling on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald to account for any tools and resources currently available to him to intervene at especially-troubled medical centers and improve them.

Roby said her Committee Report language “really lays the groundwork to compel the VA – the Washington VA – to come in and take over failing systems like Central Alabama… I’ve been asking nicely for almost a year. I’m done asking nicely. It’s time that we see some positive direction here.”

Upon the Committee’s approval of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill this week, Rep. Roby spoke candidly about her intentions moving forward. She said she is actively pursuing legislation that would set up a takeover-trigger mechanism at the VA. 

“I have grown increasingly frustrated with the situation in Central Alabama because it seems like we are relying on a broken system to fix itself. After all the staff shakeups and promises to improve, we haven’t seen progress. 

“I’m tired of the excuses from this giant bureaucracy. I want the onus for fixing the Central Alabama VA to be on squarely on the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and it’s only fair to first make sure he has the proper tools to do it.”