Iraq, Afghan Wars Created VA Backlog

By:  Jack Kenny
Iraq, Afghan Wars Created VA Backlog

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) picked the eve of the Memorial Day weekend to incur the wrath of veterans organizations with an "Open letter to America's Veterans."

In the letter, Burr sharply criticized several of the groups for not joining the American Legion's call for "leadership change" at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where Secretary Eric Shinseki has been hearing calls for his resignation following the scandal over falsification of records and the wait time for wounded veterans seeking treatment. In the letter he released and published on his website May 23, Burr, the ranking Republican on the Committee on Veterans Affairs, praised the Legion for its stand but charged spokesmen for the other veterans' groups who testified at a recent hearing on the scandal with being "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."

Before the weekend was over, three of the groups responded with statements Burr probably will not quote in his campaign literature should he run for reelection in 2016.

Burr's charge was a  "monumental cheap-shot," Veterans of Foreign Wars commander-in-chief William Thien and John Hamilton, the group's adjutant general, said in their letter to the senator. Calling his statement "one of the most dishonorable and grossly inappropriate acts that we've witnessed in more than forty years of involvement with the veteran community," Thien and Hamilton labeled it "ugly and mean-spirited" and beneath "the standards of the United States Senate."

President Bill Lawson and Executive Director Homer Townsend, Jr. of the Paralyzed Veterans of America charged in their letter that Burr "should be ashamed" and that his letter "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."

A statement on the website of Disabled American Veterans said 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."

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Photo: AP Images

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