Ex-Army Chopper Pilot Amber Barno: ‘We Want to See Real Change’ at VA

July 15, 2014 - 11:27 AM

Concerned Veterans for America

(CNSNews.com) – Former Army helicopter pilot and Iraq war veteran Amber Barno says the scandal at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) calls for “a new reformed VA that’s going to help veterans,” not just “another piece of legislation that isn’t going to fix the VA.”

“We want to see real change,” Barno, who is now a military advisor at Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), told CNSNews.com.

She added that she has high expectations for the new conference committee that is trying to iron out the differences between VA reform legislation passed by the House and the Senate before Congress goes into recess.

Those expectations include “clear” standards of care for veterans and increased ability to fire VA managers who do not meet them.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that such an overhaul of the military veterans' health care system would cost $35 billion.

“I think that the VA scandal is outrageous and really upsetting, as a veteran myself,” Barno told CNSNews.com.

"I think that the VA conference committee that's going on right now, they really need to, before it gets to the president's desk, it really needs to have very strict and straightforward language in it to make sure that there’s no loopholes moving forward that the VA can use, especially when it comes to private care and wait times in terms of basically what goes in to a veteran being able to receive private care because of a long wait time or too far a difference from or distance to a facility.

"So it needs to say 21 days or 60 miles or less. That’s what I would like to see come out of the VA select committee and hopefully legislation moving forward.”

“We want to see real change. We don’t want to see just another piece of legislation that isn’t going to fix the VA. And that’s what we want to see here is a new, reformed VA that’s going to help veterans,” Barno concluded.

Barno echoed the open letter CVA CEO Pete Hegseth sent to the VA Conference Committee last Thursday which stated that “the final legislation must both aggressively address VA’s systemic problems and shield reforms from VA bureaucratic sabotage.”

CVA stipulated provisions that should be included in the final legislation, including the establishment of “clear, independent, and automatic wait time and geographic standards for seeking private care,” "timely reimbursement payments," and "real accountability."

CVA stated that the “bill must reflect clear standards—no more than 21 days or 60 or less miles—to define what constitutes excessive wait times, or excessive travel, for VA care.”

“A core aspect of this reform is the ability for poor VA managers to be promptly removed for cause,” the letter said. “Any effort to further dilute accountability measures must be resisted; and final language should hew closely to the House accountability language.”