Concerned Veterans' Barno: Civilian VA Chief a 'Welcome Change'

Monday, 30 Jun 2014 12:08 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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"Mixing up the status quo" with the nomination of a civilian as the next Veterans Affairs secretary is a "welcome change" that former Army helicopter pilot and Concerned Veterans of America spokeswoman Amber Barno hopes will result in a comprehensive transformation of the beleaguered system.

"It's a good sign that the administration recognizes that … putting the standard person in there isn't working, and so they're going to try something different," Barno said on Newsmax TV’s "America’s Forum." "They've got to change it up if they want to see real results, positive results, coming out of the VA."

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President Barack Obama has nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to head the VA following years of systemic problems and recent whistle-blower revelations that patients died while waiting months, or years, to see a doctor. Secret waiting lists were designed to fool Washington into believing patients received timely care when in fact they were not officially entered into the VA computer system until the scheduled appointment was within 14 days.

McDonald, 61, is a West Point graduate and, according to The Washington Post, served in the 82nd Airborne for five years before leaving the military as a captain for an entry level job at P&G. His father is a World War II veteran, and his father-in-law was a prisoner of war shot down over Europe.

McDonald’s lack of medical background is not concerning to Barno, who said his leadership skills are of tantamount importance.

"What we need here is leadership, someone who can take a calcified bureaucracy that's been failing veterans and has had this terrible culture  [that has] been allowed to fester inside it for so long," she said. "We need someone who can change that. He's going to have all sorts of medical appointees that he can then help manage the medical side of things."

She would like to see accountability and transparency from a leader who is undeterred by the inherent bureaucracy within the vast government agency.

"We've seen all sorts of unethical practices and mismanagement and so that's really where he's going to have to start, is changing up those personnel and bringing in fresh leadership at the VA and sort of start over and create a culture where employees don't feel like they're going to get retaliated against or they're going to have to work under all of these sorts of unethical practices.

"It's going to be some very rough road ahead, and some tough work, but he's willing to get his hands dirty and make some necessary changes."

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