Vets groups blast GOP senator who accused them of defending the status quo
May 26th, 2014
04:18 PM ET
6 years ago

Vets groups blast GOP senator who accused them of defending the status quo

(CNN) - Major veterans’ groups this Memorial Day weekend harshly criticized the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee after he charged that the leaders of the service organizations are too cozy with embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and won’t call for him to resign despite allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing in his department.

Sen. Richard Burr accused them of being “more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections than they are to the needs of their own members.”

“A monumental cheap-shot” is what the leaders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars called the accusations by the North Carolina Republican, which were included in an “open letter” the senator issued to veterans on Friday. The VFW said Burr was engaged in a “disgusting ambush style of politics.”

“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 that standards of the United States Senate,” the VFW statement said. “Your allegations are ugly and mean-spirited in every sense of the word and are profoundly wrong, both logically and morally.”

Another group, Disabled American Veterans, said they were “outraged” Burr - one in a handful of Senate Republicans who have called on Shinseki to resign - would choose Memorial Day weekend to criticize the groups.

“Regrettably, Senator 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, all of whom served honorably to defend this nation and then devoted all or most of their lives to servicing fellow veterans,” the DAV statement said.

“You clearly represent the worst of politics in this country,” said the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

In his letter, Burr criticized six of the seven veterans’ service organizations, known as VSOs, that testified at a recent Senate hearing on problems in the VA health system. In particular, the hearing examined allegations veterans died while on secret waiting lists for doctor appointments.

A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list

Only the American Legion, which has called for Shinseki to go, escaped Burr’s criticism.

“It became clear at the hearing that most of the other VSOs attending appear to be more interested in defending the status quo with VA, protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the Secretary and his inner circle,” Burr said.

But Burr really hit a nerve when he accused the “Washington executive staff of the VSOs” of not having the “interests of their members at heart.”

“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 said.

“The VFW staff you chose to rebuke and whose principles you have questioned walk the walk,” the VFW responded. “They’ve been there, done that and some have the scars to show for it. Collectively, those same staff members have among them more than 47 combat deployments.”

Asked Monday about the strong response from the VSOs, an aide to Burr provided a fresh statement from the senator: "The VSOs response is a rousing defense of the status quo at VA. It's clear that my open letter to America's veterans has outraged some VSOs more than the scandals at VA - I believe their testimony stands on its own."

For its part, a VFW spokesman told CNN Monday the group has no idea why Burr went after them.

“We really have no idea,” said Joe Davis. “It was a total surprise.”

Filed under: Richard Burr • Veterans • Veterans Affairs
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    Cheap shots, no solutions, yep, that's a republican.

    May 26, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    -–this has been going on for GENERATIONS, NOT NEW STUFF, next..., ask Walter Reed Hospital allegations under Bush the thush. You bicker now, unfortunate, karma, our karma!!!! Hillary16.

    May 26, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  3. DownNuP

    I have been using the VA here in Saint Louis for 2 1/2 years and I am extremely pleased with the service. These republicans don't want to fund the VA and then blame Admiral Shinseki for their continued contempt for the commoners. I am ashamed that these fools consider themselves Americans. I will not vote for another Republican until these crooked piles are driven from their offices.

    May 26, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |

    When it comes to calling out Republican hypocrisy and fake outrage. Republican hypocrites who cut funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) department and have the audacity to blame President Barack Obama and department Secretary Eric Shinseki’s administrations. n March of 2003, the very same time the the Bush Administration began its war against Iraq — the Republican-led House of Representatives approved a budget that cut over $14 billion from the Veteran Administration’s budget.

    Not only that, but when correctly Shinseki told the American people that the Iraq War would take hundreds of thousands of soldiers in a prolonged battle, he was run out of Washington by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.

    Unbelievably, these very same Republicans are now engaging in a “coordinated effort” to blame Pres. Obama and Shinseki for a newly-created Veteran Administration bookkeeping “scandal”.

    May 26, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. Thomas

    republicans fund wars , not Veterans .

    May 26, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Pk duster

    The seantor has never been the military how does he know about the vfw

    May 26, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. Disgusted

    From reading many veterans' opinions, Burr's not the only one to feel this way.

    May 26, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    Another GOP chicken-hawk, with little or no experience with the military outside of playing " Call of Duty", feels he is qualified to attack veterans groups....its not like they have not done it before. I guess having the audacity not to jump on the GOP's bandwagon will make anyone in the whack-job chorus question your intentions, regardless of how ill-informed and badly timed the accusations are.

    May 26, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. roger

    after all the cuts the republicans demanded, now would be a great time to hold them accountable. But in the new republican party of lies, hate, and mis-direction, they continue to have no real message to run on. So it's just more of the same. No matter how long and loud you lie, it's still a lie.

    May 27, 2014 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  10. Marie MD

    These problems have been going on since after WWI. This is not new and plenty of horrifying stuff came out when the shrub #43 was president.
    Let some of these teaklans go to war, or their sons or daughters, and go through what these men and women do and see how quickly they open their pockets to give veterans the help they so badly need.

    May 27, 2014 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  11. TomInRochNY

    Didn't the R's cut the budget for the VA? Now their shouting about problems at the VA that they created. Typical.

    May 27, 2014 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  12. janemarion

    The Republicans seem unwilling or unable to operate from anything other than a "politics is God" platform.
    Can anyone remember the last time they worked together to accomplish something positive for the American people?
    Me neither.
    It was good to see the veterans' groups fight back and take this guy to task.
    He sure has been quiet since the slapdown.

    May 27, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  13. TONE

    Remember vets are poor people, and they are not the koch brothers so i was not surprised to see the attack. The gop don't care about vets all they do is care about wars, so that they and their rich bosses could increase their bottomline.

    May 27, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |