Senator Richard Burr thought he'd play some VA political games with an open letter. Instead, he was blasted by every veterans' service organization but one.
May 28, 2014

Perhaps Senator Richard Burr should have taken a step back and considered whether it was wise to write an "open letter to veterans" blasting the organizations that fight for their interests while assuming he wouldn't get any kind of blowback over it. In his arrogance, he forgot that they were actually testifying in a hearing he didn't bother to engage in.

Huffington Post:

Burr accused the groups (with the exception of the American Legion) of being more invested in maintaining access to the secretary than with fixing a troubled health care system. He questioned why they haven't called for a leadership change at the VA, and pointedly charged the groups’ leaders with not caring about the health and well-being of their members.

Burr’s letter was in response to the testimony that Shinseki and seven of these veteran service organizations (VSO) had given before his committee the week prior, concerning revelations and allegations of long wait times, bureaucratic malfeasance and insufficient care at the VA.

Burr's push has very little to do with veterans and more to do with implementing the long-held goal of conservatives to privatize the VA, something these groups do not want. Also, there's never a bad time to call for the head of Eric Shinseki on a platter for problems conservatives created in the first place, right? The veterans' service organizations he smacked didn't take the rebuke quietly.

Burr's words hit a nerve with some of those groups that testified before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee panel on veterans care May 15. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Paralyzed 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, Paralyzed 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 enamored 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."

It's so adorable when Senators pretend they give a damn for pure political gain, isn't it?

What rankled the groups, a source close to one of them said, was not just that Burr questioned their motives on the eve of Memorial Day. It was also that Burr sent the letter after sparsely attending the hearings he found so offensive, and not raising concerns about the groups' positions on the issue while he was there.

Burr's grandstanding is the stuff that makes me hate politics sometimes. They pay a lot of lipservice to "supporting the troops" as if yellow ribbon magnets on the car somehow makes every evil effort to privatize and de-fund government services disappear. I'm glad to see these groups slamming him for his cynical and stupid letter, though I doubt he'll learn much.

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