Martha Roby: New VA facility a turning point, but more improvements needed

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You may have seen the news that the Central Alabama VA has opened a new 150,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art clinic on Chantilly Parkway, in Eastern Montgomery. Our veterans deserve a world-class facility like this one, and I was proud to join my colleague Rep. Mike Rogers, community leaders and Veterans Affairs officials to cut the ribbon on such an impressive new facility.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Chantilly clinic is intended to increase access to care for veterans who depend on the VA for medical and psychological services. The deep and complex problems that have plagued the VA nationwide, and particularly in this area, are well-documented. When I worked with whistleblowers and the news media to expose major counts of malfeasance, mismanagement and cover-up within the Central Alabama VA, we knew extensive changes would have to be made and that the road to success would be a long one. But, I am encouraged by recent progress. Badly needed staff has been hired to fill some of the gaps that have existed for years. Major headway has been made to reduce the backlog of patients waiting for appointments. That means more veteran patients are receiving the care they need in a timely fashion.

Of course, a new building will not fix all the problems with patient access by itself. As nice as it is, the new facility doesn’t make the journey for care any shorter for veterans living in Greenville, Andalusia, Troy or other areas relatively far from VA hospitals in Montgomery and Tuskegee. That’s why I’m working to build a network of local hospitals, clinics and other providers that can allow many veterans to access care right in their hometown.

Very soon, I will be bringing together local, regional and national VA leaders to sit down with hospital CEOs from across Alabama so we can work out an agreement to develop a community veterans health network. When veterans are able to get treated by local providers, it means they aren’t forced to drive long distances to receive care. It also means the demand at VA facilities is lessened so they can tend to the patients already on their rolls.

I believe this common-sense, hybrid approach is the future of veterans’ health care, and I’m optimistic we can build a community veterans’ health network in Alabama that can serve as a national model.

It’s refreshing to be able to share positive news about our work to improve the VA. My staff and I will remain vigilant in making sure our veterans are receiving the care they need because that’s our job. I hope the opening of the new VA facility marks a turning point in our mission to improve VA services and make sure no veteran gets left behind.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is in her third term.

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