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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) picked an incredibly inopportune time to bungle his political attack against the Department of Veterans Affairs, when he lashed out at veterans organizations over Memorial Day weekend. In an “Open Letter to America’s Veterans,” Burr demonstrated a distinct lack of respect for military veterans, choosing not to thank them for their service, but rather to criticize their failure to conform to his opinion.

For the past several weeks, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has faced mounting criticism over the VA’s treatment of former service men and women, and their access to health care. Following accusations of poor management, forged records, and other cover-ups, both Shinseki and President Obama have vowed to right the wrongs. The GOP, predictably, has seized upon the controversy as another opportunity to hype a political scandal — only this time, Burr managed to create a scandal of his own.

In his open letter, Burr ripped veterans service organizations (VSOs) that have not echoed his call for Shinseki’s resignation, saying that they are “more interested in defending the status quo within VA, protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the Secretary and his inner circle” than in helping their own members. To say that Burr’s letter backfired would be an understatement.  Three major veterans groups — Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans — responded furiously to the senator’s shortsighted attack.

“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,” Disabled American Veterans said in a statement on its website. Indeed, some members of Burr’s own party are not entirely onboard with his one-step solution; House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and numerous other Republicans have not called for Shinseki’s resignation.

DVA went on to add, “Senator Burr shows no interest in pursuing serious policy solutions, preferring instead to launch cheap political attacks on the integrity of leaders of veterans organizations that do not agree with him.” While these statements may seem like a harsh blow, responses from Veterans of Foreign Wars and Paralyzed Veterans of American made this reply seem kind in comparison.

Veterans of Foreign Wars called Burr’s letter a “monumental cheap shot,” and bristled at his suggestion that the dedicated individuals at VFW did not care about their members. Comparing their tireless and constant efforts to help veterans to Burr’s “exorbitant amount of days off,” VFW scoffed at the notion that Burr feels entitled to question the principles of men and women who have “walk[ed] the walk.”

Sparing no feelings, VFW added that Burr’s letter was 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 branded Burr’s accusations as “ugly and mean-spirited in every sense of the words and profoundly wrong, both logically and morally.”

In a particularly acidic conclusion, VFW wrote,

If we’ve been remiss in anything, Senator, we’ve been remiss in being too polite with Congress…We will not stand by and let our members be distracted by rhetoric or finger-pointing and we certainly won’t abide our veterans being used as political footballs. And you can be sure that we will let our membership know the low regard you hold for their organization.

Paralyzed Veterans of America had a similarly infuriated message for Burr, saying that he clearly represented “the worst of politics in this country.” Burr’s letter, the organization said, “displays why the vast majority of the American public puts no faith in their elected officials to do what is right for this country.” Paralyzed Veterans of America also neatly demonstrated the hypocrisy in Burr’s accusations, noting that Burr was “not actually present during the testimony that the VSO representatives provided” and “did not ask a single question…about how to fix the problems the VA health care system” faces.

While most reasonable human beings — especially those whose jobs depend on keeping voters happy — would take such criticism as a sign of an enormously offensive mistake and apologize, Burr did no such thing. The North Carolina Republican refused to retract his letter or its sentiments, or to issue an apology. Instead, Burr zeroed in on the responses as further proof of the misplaced priorities of the VSOs, saying, “I think they’ve shown more outrage toward my open letter than outrage toward the current crisis at the VA.”

For good reason, Senator Burr.

 Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Daniel Jones

    You see, the Republicans WANT the problems they created to stay in place, WANT the no longer “useful” vets to die, and WANT absolutely no attention, media coverage, or claims made lest the truth come out.

    And if anything the Bush League did does come to light, they want it blamed on Obama.

  • Ann-Marie Poli

    This may seem unrelated, but I was watching the father of Chris Martinez, father of the boy slain at UC Santa Barbara. In an incredible moment of integrity and bravery, he counted himself among those guilty of doing nothing since Newtown, and truly seemed to accept it as truth. Concerning the VA, all I see is finger pointing. I’ve heard many of our Republican leaders call out Shinsenki on his six years at the VA, perhaps deservedly so. But what about their twenty, thirty years in congress? I’d like to see some of the bravery exhibited by Mr. Martinez shown by those who have influence on the VA. We will get somewhere when they all start pointing a finger at them selves.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Had the Republican Controlled Congress (a fact since 1994 – with the exception of two years) actually funded the VA to their budget requests designed to meet the needs of the returning Iraq/Afghanistan vets, along with the aging WW2, Korea, Vietnam, etc. veteran populations, this would be a non-issue. However, as the VA is not a protected benefit as is Medicare, they were a target for funding reductions. After all, Tom DeLay, when he was still House Majority Leader (no way he would have been elected Speaker – that was why Denny Hastert never did anything that DeLay didn’t want), told the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee Chair, “Veterans receive too much money already. Be glad we didn’t cut it more.”

  • elw

    The troubles in the VA go back to the Reagan Administration (maybe further) when there was a scandal over the high rates of patient deaths and the discovery that the numbers were being tampered with in order to hide exactly how many were dying. In the decades since, through both Republican and Democratic Presidents, there has been little or no effort to correct the problems within the system. The troubles continued and yet they are met with budget cuts and accusations towards individual who could do little with less money. Come on it is the current members of the GOP who voted against increasing the budget so badly needed by the VA. Anyone who uses this moment for political gain should be tarred and feathered and sent out of town on a horse dawn cart. It is time to remember that this is not about politics it is about human beings who are suffering and most of the time that suffering is directly caused by the service they gave to the Country to protect it. Firing someone will not help – putting politics aside might. As far as I am concern anyone who votes for Richard Burr is as bad as he is.

  • RobertCHastings

    Senator Burr, along with every other Republican Senator on Capitol Hill, have VA hospitals in their states that are (and should be) under scrutiny for the same reasons plaguing the VA in Arizona. One of Shinseki’s harshest critics is the Senator from Arizona, John McCain, himself a wounded warrior, who should long ago have been aware of the effects massive budget cuts were having on the ability of the VA to treat our veterans adequately. Through both hypocrisy AND chutzpah, McCain and other Republican senators are panning the administration and Shinseki for problems they created a dozen years ago. Wake up America! Yes, the VA is NOT doing its job. Neither would anyone else if they were not paid.

  • DAK27

    You’ll also notice this Senator NEVER served in uniform. Too much of a chicken-shit crybaby and a chairborne ranger, full of how to “fix” things he has no clue about how they are supposed to function. If I had my way, NO ONE would be allowed to be in Congress unless they were a veteran. If you want something FROM this country you have to GIVE something to this country first.

  • Grannysmovin

    Republicans reaction to the following:

    Benghazi – 4 Americans actively serving in the Diplomatic Core in a Country known for having anti-American cells. Outrage, A) Issa’s investigation into Benghazi was/is the House Oversight Committee B) Chairman Mike Rogers investigation into Benghazi was/is the
    House Intelligence Committee, C)Chairman McKeon investigation into Benghazi was/is the House Armed Services Committee E) Rep. Edward R. Royce, Chairman investigation into Benghazi was/is House Committee on Foreign Affairs F) Senate Select Committee and now the Special “Trial
    ” Committee.

    VA scandal- Outrage NOW – not in the late 90’s when it started, not from 2001 to present when the system was failing. Where was this outrage when all but 2 Republicans voted against Expanded veterans benefits bill fails over GOP’s budget-busting objections. Republicans block the bill for not having a funding source
    Iraq War: Our Administration lied to everyone about WMD which was the reason given to invade Iraq. Over 4,000 dead, ten of thousands injured, where was the Republican Outrage – I must have missed it. Where were all the hearings? Where was the demand for action? Where was the demand for accountability?

    Gun Deaths since Newton: 12,042 or more between Newtown and Dec. 31, 2013 Outrage from Republicans ZERO. Are these peoples lives any less of value than the 4 Americans who died in Benghazi. I have sympathy for the families and gratitude for their service, but they volunteered to serve their country knowing and accepting the risks. What about the 12,042 people who died, they were not serving their country in some volatile area around the world. Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for action? Where is the accountability?

    • Justin Napolitano

      Hear! Hear! Well said.

  • howa4x

    What gets lost in this last controversy is the issue of why there is a surge in Vets needing attention. GWB and company Started 2 wars at once where over 250,000 soldiers rotated through and a large number received war related injuries including PTSD. What GWB didn’t do was to staff up the VA to handle the new influx of war damaged patients. There was no increase of funds to do this, even though every politician knew it. It is disingenuous of republicans to point a finger at the ineptitude of the VA when they helped cause the problem. It is interesting to note the backlog was created by these two wars, since there was no problem prior to them. In fact Walter Reed Hospital which also belongs to the VA is where every elected politician gets care, and no one is yelling about that. We are talking about a few facilities among hundreds of them. Instead of trying to score political points just vote for adequate funding.

  • kanawah

    The republicans have consistent voted against funding for the VA.
    Just take a look at the latest piece of elephant crap from Ryan in the house. Not only does he attack the vets, he also goes after Social Security ,Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps

    As I have said before, anyone who votes for a republican and is not OLD, RICH, WHITE, and MALE is a fool.

    • DAK27

      I would go so far as to include ANY who vote for a Republican in that “Fool” category. The only person who is a bigger fool than a Republican running for office (or in office) is those who vote for them.

  • tdm3624

    I think that this is one area where both parties could easily set aside politics and institute quality reforms.

    • DAK27

      Dream on. Today’s Republican will NEVER work with Obama on anything. If Obama resigned this afternoon, tomorrow the GOP would say “See? I told you he was a quitter!”

      Obama should just call them out, by name, on TV, radio, print media… every where, every time, they lie about anything. He should also highlight who voted FOR funding the VA and who voted AGAINST funding… by NAME.

  • herchato

    Caring for the veterans after they leave active duty has always been on the back burner for politicians of both parties. Just too much downside, meaning money being spent to do it properly.



    Just curious, but would like to know how many rich Republicans sons and daughter actually serve or have served in the military?

    Latest figures available seem to indicate that their numbers are significantly less than those from other sectors of the socioeconomic spectrum.

    Like, if you don’t play the game, don’t attempt to lime the field.

  • Barbara Morgan

    /according to everything I have read Burr left as the Veterans organizations was beginning to testifying before the committee and didn’t come back until the last few minutes and tried to them from finishing their testifying. He is a sick publicity seeking so and so like so many others in the Republican-Tea party orbit. He probably does believe his lies but I think he is wanting some of that free publicity that the likes of Cruz, Graham, McClain get a lot of and he is using his anger? at the Veteran Organizations to get it. If you have never served you shouldn’t be a member of the Veteran Affairs committee, especially when you rather eat than listen to the organizations that you are putting down. Also he has voted against everything that would help our Vets in every shape and form so until he starts voting to help our vets instead of throwing them under the bus and train he needs to go to NC and work at on the fracking sites that is destroying his state.

  • charles king

    Why? can’t We agree to dis-agree. What? the hell is going on in America. Who? caused all of this shutting dow the government. why? aren’t the People up in arms about What? the hell is going on. People lets start doing some Critical Thinking and fix the problems because the country is losing its Democracy and being replace with Plutocracy. What? is that. Plutocracy is all over America and these Plutocracts with MONIES are making a mess of your Democracy. Critical Thinking and the VOTE is the only recourse we have so lets get busy and Vote these anti-government out of office the VOTE is still Supreme. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

  • Ash Berger

    To preserve liberty, we must be compensated based upon the usefulness of our contributions instead of subjective merit as judged by others.

  • Justin Napolitano

    It is easy to destroy the Republican party and its members; just let them talk.