An “open letter” from a senior Republican senator to the nation’s veterans in which he castigates the leadership of veterans’ organizations prompted a brutal war of words over the Memorial Day weekend, including a promise from the Veterans of Foreign Wars that its “hat in hand” approach to Congress will turn more combative.Why is Richard Burr attacking veterans groups, you might be asking. Basically, because they aren't carrying enough water for the Republicans by attacking the Administration's handling of the V.A:
Mr. Burr, angry that only the American Legion has called for the resignation of the veterans affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, accused the groups of being “more interested in defending the status quo within V.A., protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the secretary and his inner circle” than in helping members.Fortunately, the vets aren't afraid of a fight (duh), and they called out Burr for being the hack that he is:
“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 heads of the veterans group wrote to Mr. Burr. “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.”
To that sentiment, the national president and the executive director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America added, “Perhaps you should have shared with all veterans in your ‘open’ letter that you cared so much about their health care that you were not actually present during the testimony that the V.S.O. representatives provided, and you did not ask a single question.” V.S.O. stands for veterans service organizations.The Republicans are trying to use problems with delays in treatment at the V.A. as a wedge to begin privatizing veterans' services, a move the veterans organizations themselves are against:
“For the full basket of reforms to take place at the V.A., there has to be some level of competition,” Mr. Burr said Monday in an interview. “The problems seem to be so systemic, and in some cases, so cultural, that unless there’s a model that gives veterans some ability to decide where to go, I don’t think we will have the means to meet the needs of current veterans, let alone future veterans.”
Veterans groups maintain that the department’s services for spinal cord injury, care for the blind, amputee care and other trauma cannot be matched by private facilities. Over the past two to three years, the department has had a net gain of 1.5 million patients, 200,000 of them with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, according to Mr. Sanders.Republican wars of choice created an enormous number of veterans who need vital services from the Veterans Administration, and yet guess which party has been blocking funding for the V.A?
Relations between the organizations and Senate Republicans have been strained since February, when Republicans blocked a vote on broad veterans legislation, written by Mr. Sanders, that would have bolstered health and dental care, authorized 27 new clinics and medical facilities, added to veterans education programs, and dealt with veterans who suffered sexual trauma while in the military.It's the same thing across the board: Republicans create the problems, refuse to fund the solutions, and then blame Democrats for not being able to fix their messes. Fortunately the veterans groups actually pay attention to how lawmakers vote and the effects those votes have.
I hope whoever runs against Burr in 2016 plays the statements of these vets on a continuous loop and makes him own his votes to restrict veterans' benefits. We have a large military presence in N.C., and they generally vote Republican. It would be nice if some of the groups they trust to protect their interests started calling out the GOP on the disastrous effects their policies have in the real world.