When I read Senator Richard Burr’s open letter to veterans, released in time for Memorial Day, I must admit to being surprised that a United States Senator would attack Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). Six, of the seven VSO groups that testified before the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs (i.e. Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, and Vietnam Veterans of America) were attacked in Burr’s letter, in which Burr questioned their motives and accused their leadership of not caring about the health and well being of their members, since they failed to call for a leadership change at the VA (as if that would fix all the problems veterans encounter in dealing with the VA). The seventh group, the American Legion, did call for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the current Veterans Affairs Secretary (and available fall guy), agreeing with Burr, who had nothing but praise for that group in his letter.
According to an article posted on the Huffington Post by Jen Bendery on Sunday morning (the day before Memorial Day), Candy Crowley of CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ interviewed Representative Jeff Miller (R- Florida.) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I- Vermont). Both agreed that between the House and Senate, over 90 hearings were held on VA matters since 2013, including 10 joint committees. Ms. Crowley suggested to them both that the current problems veterans encounter with the VA are the responsibility of lawmakers for failing to provide oversight of VA hospitals, given that they’ve held dozens of hearings on VA matters. Miller claimed that his committee has been aware of the problems of long wait times at VA facilities for more than a year, and that his panel has held “more than 70 oversight hearings on issues ranging from disability claims to the backlog in access to care.” Miller conceded “Sure, everybody is probably culpable in this” and said “We’re doing what we’ve been asked to do. That is to find out the information.” According to Sanders “The Veterans and Veterans Groups overwhelmingly say that people receive good, to excellent care within the VA system. The problem is that two million new veterans have flooded an already crowded system, which means there needs to be funding to support them. They are treating 6.5 million people a year, 230,000 people every single day.”
Neither man called for Shinseki to step down. Senator Richard Burr (R- NC) never went to war. He never even put on a uniform and served in any branch of the U.S. Military. Per Sam Stein’s article on the Huffington Post, what was particularly upsetting to the VSO groups was that Burr sent the letter after “sparsely attending the hearings he found so offensive” and “failing to raise concerns about the group’s positions while he was there.”
It seems fairly obvious that Senator Richard Burr only cares about milking his time in the spotlight in order to gain political points by insulting the veterans of this country, casting blame onto the VA leadership for all things wrong with the system, and accepting none of the responsibility himself (even though he is a ranking member of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee). If, as Senator Burr so adamantly insists, Eric Shenseki should be forced to step down for his failures, then Senator Burr should step down for his own failures to do his job in overseeing the VA, in all the time he has served on that committee.
The problems veterans encounter dealing with the VA are not new. They are not only since 2013. They have been going on since I served in the Vietnam War, and not all the hearings in Congress has done anything to make it any better for the veterans that need help. Not then, and not today. What has not seemed to change is that politicians keep sending Americans to fight wars, yet those veterans coming home must fight for their earned benefits (if they are lucky enough to receive them at all)….and that politicians will hold hearings, cast blame, deny responsibility, wave the flag, and campaign….
Just a thought….perhaps it should be a requirement that every lawmaker serving on committees pertaining to veterans actually BE a veteran. Then they will, like Mr. Shinseki today, face the end of their careers for failing to deliver.
* ref 5/25/2014 “Veterans Groups Rip Into Sen. Richard Burr For Questioning Their Priorities”
* ref 5/25/2014 “Dozens Of Hearings Later, Lawmakers Pressed On Where They’ve Been On VA Dysfunction”
* ref 5/30/2014 “VA Chief Eric Shinseki Resigns Post, Obama Announces”
* ref 5/30/2014 “VA Chief Eric Shinseki Resigns Post, Obama Announces” [/refbox]