Last week, Senator Richard Burr, the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wrote a letter condemning staff at various veterans groups including the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), for not condemning VA secretary Eric Shinseki strongly enough.
Burr said more groups should call for Shinseki’s resignation – I believe many indeed have – but he went on to say these groups are more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections than they are to the needs of their own members.” Burr really stepped into a minefield with this one.
According to POLITICO, the VVA has fired back, saying that specific claim “is blatantly false and, in reality, is perhaps more reflective of your lack of knowledge of the character, integrity and honor of these fine people who serve their membership.”
The group added that his comments do not help veterans. “Your letter of May 23 and its tone do absolutely nothing to serve the health-care interests of America’s veterans,” the group said to Burr. “Your ugly comments and false accusations about VSOs and their staff will not resolve any of the VA’s problems. VVA believes it is not the time, at this crucial juncture, for throwing stones or issuing caustic statements.”
Several other veterans’ organizations have responded angrily to Burr’s letter. Top officials at the Veterans of Foreign Wars called his comments a “monumental cheap shot.” The Paralyzed Veterans of America said the senator “clearly represent[s] the worst of politics in this country.”
Being a veteran and having served on the House Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on Military Personnel, I can attest that in my time on the Hill I witnessed our VSOs, Veteran Service Organizations, fighting strongly and being quite vocal. I remember the VSO visits to Capitol Hill and their specific advocacy on VA wait times, especially for the claims process. I receive mail from several VSOs including VFW, American Legion, and ROA and their focus on reforming the VA system.
So it does seem very surprising that the Senate ranking member would put out a statement which was not cosigned by the House Chairman on Veterans Affairs, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla).
Unfortunately, now Sen. Burr has provided plenty of ready ammo for the liberal progressive media who can now paint him as the “focal point bad guy” on the issue. Instead of working with the VSOs to develop solutions to rectify this horrific issue and pressuring Attorney General Eric Holder to open up an independent investigation, Burr instead attacked veterans. Truly a brilliant well-conceived move on his part — not!
So for the rest of the news cycle this week, the attention will be on the nasty ol’ Republican who demeaned and denigrated veterans groups. The emphasis will not be on the failures of the Obama administration in reference to the VA scandal.
One just has to ask, why do Republicans seem to have incurable foot in mouth disease, especially when the Democrats are proving themselves to be incompetent, nefarious, scandalous, coercive liars?
My recommendation is that Senator Burr join with House Chairman Miller and craft recommendations to improve the plight and at the VA. But apparently Senator Burr is standing his ground, saying “The VSOs’ [veterans’ service organizations] response is a rousing defense of the status quo at VA,” he said. “It’s clear that my open letter to America’s veterans has outraged some VSOs more than the scandals at VA — I believe their testimony stands on its own.”
Well, I have a message to Sen. Burr: when you find yourself in a minefield you retrace your steps to get out — you don’t start jumping up and down, and your certainly don’t start kicking.