A trio of Veterans groups issued statements slamming U.S. Sen Richard Burr, a Republican from Virginia, for what one organisation called a “monumental cheap shot” after Burr wrote an open letter to the groups scolding them for what he saw as a lack of participation in condemning the growing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Burr, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, released his open letter to veterans on Friday afternoon ahead of Memorial Day weekend. In it, he applauded the American Legion as the only veterans group to take “a principled stand” in chastising Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki after he testified before Congress two weeks ago about the treatment the agency has offered veterans. Burr also criticised Veterans Service Organisations (VSOs) that did not call for Shinseki’s resignation, writing they were “more interested in defending the status quo within the V.A., protecting their relationships with the agency, and securing access to the secretary and his inner circle.”
Burr’s words hit a nerve with some of those groups that testified before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committe panel on veterans care May 15. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralysed Veterans of America all issued responses over the weekend hitting back at Burr.
The VFW’s commander-in-chief William Thien and adjutant general John Hamilton co-signed a terse letter accusing Burr of a “monumental cheap shot” and “posturing.”
“Senator, this is clearly one of the most dishonorable and grossly inappropriate acts that we’ve witnessed in more than forty years of involvement with the veteran community and breaches the standards of the United States Senate,” they wrote. “Your allegations are ugly and mean-spirited in every sense of the words and are profoundly wrong, both logically and morally. Quite frankly Senator, you should be ashamed.”
In another response to Burr, Paralysed Veterans of America President Bill Lawson and Executive Director Homer Townsend ripped the senator for attacking them when he wasn’t present for their testimony. They also pointed out Burr did not ask a single question during their testimony.
“Only a politician would be so bold as to believe he or she knows better what veterans want and need than actual veterans themselves. You clearly represent the worst of politics in this country,” wrote National President Bill Lawson and Executive Director Homer Townsend.
And the Disabled American Veterans said Burr’s open letter accused him of mistakenly focusing on Shinseki’s resignation rather than their other ideas for fixing the problems at the VA.
“Senator Burr may be enamoured with the idea that all of VA’s problems and challenges can be overcome by replacing one Secretary, but the plain facts and simple logic indicate otherwise,” the group said in a statement. “If Senator Burr believes that calling for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki is the only measure of whether a leader cares about veterans, perhaps he should check with Speaker Boehner, Chairman Miller and numerous Republican Senate colleagues who have not yet done so.”
Burr’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letters. He and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, have led the charge in calling for Shinseki’s resignation.
The Obama administration is under fire for the growing VA scandal, since reports surfaced nearly a month ago detailing patients dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA facility. Calls have mounted for Shinseki to resign or be fired. In a statement last Wednesday from the White House briefing room, President Barack Obama defended Shinseki, but he promised “accountability” if the allegations engulfing the agency were true.
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