Sen. Richard Burr tried to politicize the VA scandal by criticizing the veterans groups for not calling for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki. Veterans groups responded by blistering Burr and Congress for politicizing the scandal.
In a letter to the vets groups, Sen. Burr (R-NC) wrote, “First and foremost, I must recognize and commend the American Legion, National Commander Dan Dellinger, and the American Legion team for taking a principled stand, before the hearing and during it, and calling for leadership change at the VA. It is clear that the Legion has been listening to its membership about the challenges they face in gaining access to care, and has reached the conclusion that “enough is enough” and the status quo is indefensible. The Legion’s membership has much to be proud of with the organization they support.
Regrettably, the Legion was alone among the VSOs that testified in taking such a stand. It became clear at the hearing that most of the other VSOs attending appear to be 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. But to what end? What use is their access to senior VA staff, up to and including the Secretary, if they do not use their unprecedented access to a Cabinet Secretary to secure timely access to care for their membership? What hope is there for change within the VA if those closest to the agency don’t use that proximity for the good of veterans across our country?”
The VFW responded with their own letter that blistered both Burr and those who are looking to politicize the problems at the VA:
This letter is in response to the open letter you made available for distribution late Friday, May, 23, 2014. First and foremost Senator, I will afford you the same amount of respect you demonstrated for the Veterans of Foreign Wars by the monumental cheap-shot and posturing you’ve engaged in by enlisting in an absolutely disgusting ambush style of politics. Without the courtesy or benefit of conversation or dialogue with me or the VFW Adjutant General regarding your disagreement with VFW’s recent testimony to your committee, you chose instead to take the low road and question VFW’s motives and levy a pejorative personal attack on VFW staff. 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. 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.
Clearly, you were not listening during VFW’s testimony. Nowhere did we suggest that we were interested in protecting anyone. I suggest you read the transcript. We find it especially specious that you seek to point fingers without at least an acknowledgement of some responsibility by Congress in all of this. Your assumption that we do not listen to what our members have to say is insulting. We spend most of the year traveling to and visiting VFW Posts world-wide. We have direct contact and speak at length with our members. We listen. And what you should know is this; that there is huge, and growing sentiment within most of the veteran community regarding the inaction of Congress, because they are keenly aware, (if the past is any guide), they will enact no budget, no regular appropriations bills, nor other key legislation.
If we’ve been remiss in anything Senator, we’ve been remiss in being too polite with Congress. For years, the VFW has come to Congress with hat in hand and for years, we’ve heard the same old story. You can be assured Senator, that you’ve done a superb job in showing us the error in our ways. You can also be assured that in the future, we will spend a substantial percentage of our time seeking to inform our members and our constituents of the repeated failure to act by our elected officials. 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.
The president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America wrote to Burr, “I write to express our deepest disappointment with the actions that you took leading into the Memorial Day weekend. Your “open” letter to all veterans clearly displays why the vast majority of the American public puts no faith in their elected officials to do what is right for this country. You truly should be ashamed for being so bold as to challenge veterans’ service organizations (VSO) and the veterans who represent our organizations on a weekend when we clearly know more about what the holiday represents than you do. Your attitude and actions reflects great discredit upon the United States Senate and every member of Congress should be embarrassed by your “open” letter. 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.”
The Republican attempts to turn the issues at the VA into a partisan scandal have completely backfired.
Republicans have finally done it. Their extreme partisanship has finally managed to turn veterans’ groups against them. The vets’ groups want their legitimate concerns with the VA addressed, and Sen. Burr’s letter was completely out of line. Burr was insulting veterans by demanding that they join the Republican lynch mob, or else.
Republicans have long suffered from the delusion that all vets are Republicans. Sen. Burr’s unwarranted attack on vets groups was rooted in the idea that veterans should automatically support the Republican Party. All vets aren’t Republicans, and it doesn’t matter what their political leanings are.
When a member of our military is in a life and death situation, they don’t see Democrats and Republicans standing beside them in battle. It should be no different when our people come home, and need the medical care that they were promised.
This isn’t a Democratic or Republican scandal. This is an American scandal. If Republicans insist on putting partisan politics ahead of our vets, they shouldn’t be surprised when veterans choose to the same on Election Day this November.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association