Several veterans groups tore into the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee over the weekend, after the senator chided the groups for not taking a stronger stand against Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) wrote an open letter Friday that accused veterans service organizations of “defending the status quo within the VA” rather than addressing the scandal embroiling the agency. He praised one exception, the American Legion, which called for Shinseki’s resignation over allegations that dozens of veterans died awaiting treatment at VA facilities.
“Last week’s hearing made it clear to me that the staff has ignored the constant VA problems expressed by their members and is more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections than they are to the needs of their own members,” Burr wrote.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars ripped Burr’s letter as a “monumental cheap shot” and said the senator “should be ashamed.”
“For years, the V.F.W. has come to Congress with hat in hand, and for years we’ve heard the same old story,” the group said Monday in a statement. “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.”
The Paralyzed Veterans of American and Disabled American Veterans also returned Burr’s fire over the weekend. The president and executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America wrote that Burr represents “the worst of politics in this country,” while the Disabled American Veterans said in a statement that Burr would rather “launch cheap political attacks” than pursue serious policy solutions.
Burr stood by his criticism of the groups Monday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“It seems that my open letter to veterans has brought more outrage than the VA crisis itself,” he told the newspaper.