Dear Secretary McDonald,
Now that you have been confirmed, we write to express our concerns that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is failing veterans and their families across our nation and in Alabama. It is unconscionable that veterans would be denied timely access to the healthcare services that they both need and have earned, and it is our hope that the commitment and energy you offer to address these tremendous challenges will allow for the systemic problems to be corrected and also prevent further abuse.
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. We have lost trust in the leadership at the CAVHCS.
We stand ready and willing to work with you to address the challenges facing the Department in any way appropriate. Therefore, we 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.
We remain committed to keeping our promise to our nation’s veterans and will do all that we can to ensure they are provided with timely and effective health care services. Again, we appreciate your willingness to serve our veterans and our country in this vital role and look forward to hearing back from you expeditiously in response to our requests.
Martha Roby Richard Shelby
U.S. Representative U.S. Senator