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Archive for May 28th, 2014

Sen Richard Burr

Sen Richard Burr

Good day to you Widdershins.  I started to look for a picture from Dumb and Dumber with the good Senator playing both parts, but I decided the good ole “I’m with Stupid” shirt would work much better.

Has there been anyone lately more clueless than the good Senior Senator from North Carolina?  I have to use the term lately, because there was Mitt Romney… just sayin’.  It’s sad to say (for the Republicans) that Burr is the ranking member on the committee which means he’s the head of the Republicans that are on the Committee on Veterans Affairs.  The majority member is Bernie Sanders.  I say it’s sad that he is the leader of the Repubs on the committee because with his latest antic, wonderfully timed for Memorial Day, Senator McTurtle of Ky needs to yank Burr off the committee asap.

If you aren’t aware of the latest blow up with veterans and the VA, Burr released an open letter to “America’s Veterans” in which he castigates some of the VSOs (Veterans Service Organizations) and he sang the praises of the American Legion.  The reason he did so was because the Legion has gone along with most of the Republicans in calling for VA Secretary Shinseki’s head on a pike.  At the recent hearing where the headquarters staffs of the VSOs testified, apparently some of them were more willing to give Shinseki additional time to correct things with appointments for veterans at VA facilities.  Further, he went on to basically insult the national headquarters staffs of these VSOs.

It became clear at the hearing that most of the other VSOs attending appear to be 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. But to what end? What use is their access to senior VA staff, up to and including the Secretary, if they do not use their unprecedented access to a Cabinet Secretary to secure timely access to care for their membership? What hope is there for change within the VA if those closest to the agency don’t use that proximity for the good of veterans across our country?

He went on to say:

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.

It didn’t take long for some of the VSOs to fire back at Burr.  The head of PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) said:

“Your attitude and actions reflects great discredit upon the United States Senate and every member of Congress should be embarrassed by your ‘open’ letter. Only a politician would be so bold as to believe he or she knows better what veterans want and need than actual veterans themselves. You clearly represent the worst of politics in this country”

And the Disabled American Veterans organization said:

“Senator Burr may be enamored with the idea that all of VA’s problems and challenges can be overcome by replacing one Secretary, but the plain facts and simple logic indicate otherwise. If Senator Burr believes that calling for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki is the only measure of whether a leader cares about veterans, perhaps he should check with Speaker Boehner, Chairman Miller and numerous Republican Senate colleagues who have not yet done so”

The VFW weighed in on Burr’s statement saying:

Your allegations are ugly and mean-spirited in every sense of the words and are profoundly wrong, both logically and morally. Quite frankly Senator, you should be ashamed.

 The VFW staff you chose to rebuke and whose principles you have questioned walk the walk. They’ve been there, done that and some of them have the scars to show for it.  Collectively, those same staff members have among them more than 47 combat deployments. This includes deployments to Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Their awards include four Purple Hearts, sixteen Air Medals, Bronze Stars and a variety of other awards.  Some rely on VA for their healthcare and residual treatment associated with their military service.   They understand first-hand the problems existing within the system because, unlike the majority of people, they’ve been willing to do what others won’t.  Senator, that is exactly why we find your personal attack so disgusting.

It’s obvious that things are fubar’d at a number of VA medical facilities and the problems need to be fixed as soon as possible.  I can’t speak for how things are now, but previously before Dubya’s two wars and even after the first Gulf war, access to treatment at VA medical facilities was based on what “type” of veteran you were.  There was (and apparently still is) a priority system in that those veterans who were service-connected for a condition or conditions got access first.  The top of the line, so-to-speak were those who were 100% service connected.  And they pretty much got treated for anything and everything.  After the s/c vets came those who were on VA pension.  The pension program is an income-based program for veterans who were considered totally disabled but not due to a service connected condition and who had military service during a recognized period of war.  Those veterans also had to have income within certain ranges which were almost at poverty level. You can see the periods of war here.  After that came just about everyone else who had served honorably in the military.  Even then, VA medical facilities had difficulties keeping medical professionals on staff.  Many of the doctors at the VAMC in New Orleans were not only doctors there but also taught and were on staff at Tulane and LSU’s medical schools and their associated hospitals.  With the number of “walking wounded” who are now surviving injuries in combat that would have previously killed them, I can totally believe the VA health system is close to being overwhelmed if it isn’t actually there already.  And the thing it’s going to take to fix it is money.  Money for facilities, money for doctors and related medical staff and money to add additional non-medical staff where needed.  Senator:  put your money where your mouth is.

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