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Shelby & Roby demand new VA Secretary address ‘appalling’ treatment of veterans at Alabama VA

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

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) today penned a letter to newly confirmed VA Secretary Robert McDonald requesting that he craft a plan to address allegations of mismanagement and abuse at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS). The letter also requests that Secretary McDonald personally visit the CAVHCS facility in Montgomery with Shelby and Roby in order to discuss the details of the plan.

An excerpt of the letter to Secretary McDonald is as follows:

Reports regarding the treatment of veterans in Alabama are dire and appalling. While we have yet to see a comprehensive account of the allegations, it is our understanding that the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) has the eighth longest average wait times in the nation for veterans to receive care, even with its reported manipulated recordkeeping. Evidence shows that veterans’ x-rays have been lost, which may have in turn led to cancer and other life-threatening conditions going untreated. The leadership of the CAVHCS is alleged to have encouraged falsification of records and tolerated whistleblower intimidation and retaliation, which possibly continued and exacerbated the abuse. To date, we do not believe that proper action has been taken to mitigate these allegations. Instead of swiftly working to fix the serious problems at the CAVHCS, all reports suggest that its leaders are focused on dodging blame and personal cost rather than serving veterans and providing the care and treatment promised.

Shelby and Roby further noted that the aforementioned allegations have caused them to “(lose) all trust in the leadership at CAVHCS.” As a result, they are asking McDonald to develop a plan for reforming the facility within the next 60 days.

(W)e respectfully request that you review the specific allegations and mismanagement at the VA in Alabama, and particularly at the CAVHCS. Within 60 days, we request a concise, straightforward plan from you that identifies the problems there, what can be done to correct them, and a timeline for implementation. Upon receipt of your written recommendations, we request to meet with you at the CAVHCS facility in Montgomery in order to discuss the details of your plan.

Shelby and Roby have both been actively engaged in investigating allegations of mismanagement, negligence and cover-up within Central Alabama’s VA system over the last several weeks, and the allegations continue to roll in. Today it was revealed that more than 57 percent of staff surveyed at Montgomery-based CAVHCS said they receive “instruction” from the facility to manipulate patient wait times, according to an “Access Audit” conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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