Tags: MidPoint | VA Scandal | Amber Smith | VA | care | agency | medical

Army Veteran Amber Smith: Don't Let VA Fade From Public View

By    |   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 06:08 PM

New funding and new leadership for the Department of Veterans Affairs are welcome developments after a year of scandal at the agency responsible for military medical care, but the improvements can't come fast enough, and the general public's attention is fading, an Army veteran tells Newsmax TV.

"What we need to do is we need to not let this issue die," former Army helicopter pilot Amber Smith, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told "MidPoint" guest host Ric Blackwell on Tuesday. "It's very important that we maintain a watchful eye."

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Smith said that it came as no surprise to learn that senior VA executives had been briefed on the problems plaguing VA regional medical centers well before they became a national scandal this spring. She called the latest disclosures further proof of the agency's "systemic failures."

That said, it is premature to call Sharon Helman,the fired chief of the VA medical center in Phoenix, Ariz., a mere scapegoat for institutional failings that led to falsified patient waiting lists and lethal delays in care at multiple hospitals, said Smith.

"I do not agree with that at all," she said. "Helman is no way clear of any blame just because … senior executives within the VA may have known about the problems at the Phoenix facility. It doesn't clear her of anything. She's still the leader of that facility and she is responsible for what happened there."

After firings and resignations, a new VA secretary, and a bill that pays for reforms, Smith acknowledged that badly needed improvements are "not going to happen overnight."

"But I'd like to see a little bit more happening in terms of patient care for veterans, for heroes who have fought overseas, who come home and are looking for medical care that they have earned and are not receiving it," she said.

"We knew when Bob McDonald came on us as the [new] secretary of the VA that he has a rough road ahead of him," said Smith, adding, "He's working hard. I am happy to see some of the changes, and his attitude towards some of it."

"What it's really going to come down to is making sure we're paying attention," said Smith. "As we've seen, it was a big issue in the media when it first came out. [Congress] quickly rushed the VA reform bill through."

"The American people need to stay on top of these issues and what is actually happening," she said. "It's very easy to say … that things are being done, but we really need to be watchdogs."

As for fellow military veterans still trying to get needed care, Smith said, "Don't give up."
"It can be extremely frustrating, and you wait months and months for sometimes just the smallest things," said Smith. "But I have noticed a change from when I first started with customer care inside the VA. I would say that has been a positive change, in terms of my own personal experience, from when I first started working with the VA to what I'm seeing today."

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New funding and new leadership for the Department of Veterans Affairs are welcome developments after a year of scandal at the agency responsible for military medical care, but the improvements can't come fast enough, and the general public's attention is fading, an Army...
Amber Smith, VA, care, agency, medical
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2014-08-30
Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 06:08 PM
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