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ROBY: Local VA transformation begins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senior management officials at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) were removed from authority this week in an important step toward transforming our local VA.

As you may remember, Senator Richard Shelby and I wrote newly-confirmed Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald alerting him to the many problems at CAVHCS and urging him to take action. Subsequent dialogue continued at the staff-level to make sure officials in Washington D.C. understood the severity of the problem in Alabama. Then on Thursday, the Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed that the Director and Chief of Staff were placed on administrative leave pending an active investigation.

Leadership starts at the top, and this change in senior management at CAVHCS was sorely needed. Our local system has for years been plagued by a culture of complacency.

My office has been digging into serious allegations of mismanagement, negligence and cover-up within CAVHCS for some time now. A major part of discovering the extent of the issues at the facility has come from the information provided by whistleblowers. I want to thank all those who had the courage to step forward and provide this necessary information. I know there has been real fear of retaliation, which makes their willingness to expose wrongdoing all the more admirable.

I also want to thank the investigative reporters at the local and national levels who have used their abilities and resources to expose misconduct. It is said that sunshine is the best disinfectant, and shining a light on the VA has certainly been a catalyst for reform.

Please know that I do not view our mission at the Central Alabama VA as being complete. In fact, the effort to reform CAVHCS has just begun.

Changing the management at CAVHCS is an important step—but it is just one step. By now, most everyone understands that the problems at CAVHCS are deeply rooted. The new leadership has a difficult task: at all levels of the organization, turn the existing culture of complacency into a culture of excellence. I encourage Robin Jackson, who was named acting medical center director, and Srinivas Ginjupalli, who was named acting chief of staff, to seize this opportunity to transform our troubled VA system.

I stand ready to work with them to hold bad actors responsible, support positive changes and ensure the best care possible for our veterans.

This coming week, I will continue my travel to Luverne, Evergreen, Andalusia, Montgomery, Troy and Dothan. I look forward to seeing you along the way.