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Shelby, Roby applaud management changes at scandal-ridden Central Alabama VA

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) on Thursday applauded The Department of Veterans Affairs’ decision to remove Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) director James Talton and Chief of Staff Dr. Cliff Robinson from their positions.

The management shakeup comes in the wake of almost two solid months of scandals at CAVHCS, the most recent one being that a local VA employee — while on the clock — took a recovering veteran to a crack house to purchase drugs and solicit a prostitute.

Sen. Shelby and Rep. Roby last month penned a letter to newly confirmed VA Secretary Robert McDonald requesting that he craft a plan to address allegations of mismanagement and abuse at CAVHCS. On Thursday, McDonald appeared to answer the two Alabama leaders’ call by placing Talton and Robinson on administrative leave pending a more thorough investigation.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this change in senior management at CAVHCS was sorely needed,” Roby said Thursday. “I applaud the VA for taking decisive action. Our local system is infested with a culture of complacency when it should in fact be home to a culture of excellence… We’ll continue to work with the VA to hold bad actors responsible, support positive changes, and ensure that we get the best care possible to our veterans.”

In July Congress passed legislation to help the VA address its medical care backlog and system wide management problems. The law greatly expands the Patient Centered Community Care (PC3) program to allow more veterans to seek care from non-VA providers, allocates more funding to hire additional doctors and increases accountability by authorizing the VA to fire or demote Senior Executive Service employees for poor performance.

RELATED: Roby: Bill delivers better care for vets, easier way to fire bad VA employees

Shelby said that Secretary McDonald had assured him prior to his Senate confirmation that he would act “expeditiously” to address the “concerns about the inexcusable mismanagement” at CAVHCS.

“His action today in replacing the two top officials in Montgomery who presided over such mistreatment is a promising sign that (Secretary McDonald) is serious about addressing the many problems at the VA across the country, and particularly in Montgomery,” Shelby said. “This is only the first step in a difficult journey to improve care for our veterans, but it is an important one and I welcome it.”

Robin Jackson, Ph.D., was named acting medical center Director at CAVHCS, and Srinivas Ginjupalli, M.D., was named acting Chief of Staff. Dr. Jackson most recently served at the VA Southeast Network in Duluth, Ga., where he is the deputy network director. Dr. Ginjupalli is the deputy chief of staff at CAVHCS.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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