MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A local Veterans service organization is reacting along with others to the Montgomery VA Hospital’s 1 star rating. This score was handed down by the The United States Department of Veterans Affairs as part of its hospital ratings for the 2018 Fiscal Year.
Greg Akers spent more than 20 years in the Army. For him, the decision to serve was easy.
“My father is a Veteran, my grandfather Veteran, great grandfather is a Veteran, great great great uncle is a Veteran. Every man in my family served in some capacity,” said Akers.
Akers now finds great pride in serving his fellow Veterans.
“It can be as simple as going over and sitting with a Veteran for the day,” said Akers.
As the American Legion department of Alabama adjutant, it’s a mission he takes seriously.
“We are the nations largest Veterans service organization. Our main priority is advocating for the rights of Veterans," said Akers.
Akers said the Veterans service organization learned of 1-star rating Montgomery’s VA hospital received in a letter sent to them from the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System Director, Dr. Linda Boyle.
“We knew it was coming. It has been a process working with the VA. We work very closely with Director Boyle. We knew what kind of challenges she has had and what progress she has made over the year she has been there,” said Akers.
In 2016, Montgomery’s VA received a 2-star rating. In 2017 a 3-star rating, but dropped to 1 star out of 5 in 2018. Akers believes there were a number of factors that weighed into this score from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
“It is not necessarily the care the Veteran gets, it is getting access to the care. That seems to be the biggest hurdle," said Akers. “No one is going to say the lowest rating you can get is acceptable.”
The American Legion Department of Alabama plans to continue its work with Director Boyle. With a unified focus on the care of the Veterans. Akers is confident things will turn around with a community approach.
“I think working with DAV, VFW, American Legion Marine Corps leagues all the service organizations. If we pitch in a little bit more than 110 percent, then we can help that facility grow. Director Boyle is not a one woman army so she needs help from all of us,” said Akers.
The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System sent us this statement:
“Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) is continuing to refine and improve the way health care is delivered to Veterans. The focus is on patient-centered care. We are utilizing the Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) data and analytic supporting resources to guide process improvement to enhance the quality and efficiency of care. CAVHCS has improved quality care in mental health, in-hospital complications, utilization management, call-center responsiveness, and wait times. However, considering the current SAIL 1-Star rating, we are working closely with our VISN and Central Office experts as we develop strategies to continue addressing the opportunities to improve. We take pride in serving our Veterans – achieving the best possible outcomes for them is our top priority.”
Alabama Rep. Martha Roby also responded to the 1-star rating in a statement:
“The news that the Central Alabama VA has dropped from a 3-star rating to a 1-star rating is completely unacceptable. Our Veterans represent the very best of this country, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure they receive the best possible care we can provide. Significant work is needed to achieve this goal. I have been and will remain actively engaged with CAVHCS Director Dr. Linda Boyle and other VA leadership to improve care for our Veterans so that it is easily accessible and of the highest quality. As always, I encourage Veterans in Alabama’s Second District to contact my office with problems related to VA casework. I am deeply disappointed in this rating, and my top priority continues to be that we treat our Veterans properly."