Veterans in central Alabama still face some of the longest VA wait times in the nation
TUSKEGEE, Ala. — Central Alabama’s embattled Veteran’s Affairs hospitals still have some of the longest wait times in the country, according to a report from the AP.
The Tuskegee and Montgomery VA hospitals, known as the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) had the worst marks for reaching its goals for timely access to care of any VA hospital in the country between September 2014 and February 2015, and 9 percent of patient visits involved a wait time of longer than 30 days.
Last year the CAVHCS’s director was fired after it was discovered that he was alerted to the discrepancies between reported and actual wait times 8 months before any action was taken; an employee took a veteran receiving treatment for drug addiction to a crack house to buy drugs and solicit a prostitute; and racked up millions of dollars in unpaid bills while veterans waited for care.
Congressman Martha Roby (R-AL2) who represents much of central Alabama, spoke out about the long wait times the state’s veterans are encountering in a press release Thursday.
“These statistics confirm what we are hearing every day from veterans in Alabama: that access to care is still atrocious and the scheduling runaround is still rampant,” Rep. Roby said.
“Veterans will schedule an appointment within the acceptable window, only to have the VA call and cancel, sometimes at the last minute. So, the scheduling wait times might look good on paper, but what good is that if veteran patients aren’t actually seeing doctors?
“What we want to see is improvement in patient outcomes, which is why the AP report is so important. By looking at actual completed appointments, we can see how far we have to go in reducing these long wait times.”
Rep. Roby’s release also revealed that VA’s Southeast Network Director, Charles Sepich, who oversees facilities in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, quietly retired last week after an investigation into the misconduct at the CAVHCS was expanded to include him.
“It is remarkable how quietly this major change in leadership has occurred, particularly given how troubled the Southeast region has been,” said Roby. “All those who were in positions of leadership as this scandal occurred must answer the tough questions and be held accountable. That’s the only way to truly deter wrongdoing in the future.”
“There are a lot of good people at the VA who deeply care for our veterans and work hard to give them care,” she continued. “But, the truth is, there are also those that aren’t doing the job and who don’t have the best interests of our veterans in mind. That culture has festered at Central Alabama for years. It has carried over through multiple directors, and it isn’t going to change until Secretary McDonald gets serious and puts leadership in place that will clean house. ”
“We need a permanent system director who is empowered and willing to change the lousy culture and turn the place around. I’ll take that message back to Washington next week, where improving care for veterans remains my top priority.”
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015