Another veterans’ group weighed in with an angry letter to Sen. Richard Burr on Tuesday, complaining about his chiding in an open letter to veterans groups he issued on Friday.
Vietnam Veterans of America wrote to Burr that it wanted to “express our astonishment at your insulting remarks about the testimony and staff of VSOs (veterans service organizations).”
“Clearly you were neither present, nor listening when you were present, to our testimony and that of our colleagues, none of whom defended ‘the status quo within the VA,’ or spoke to ‘protecting our relationships within the agency and securing access to the secretary and his inner circle,’ ” the letter said, a reference to Burr’s absence from most of the portion of a hearing on May 15 when VVA and other groups testified.
“Your ugly comments and false accusations about VSOs and their staff will not resolve any of the VA’s problems,” VVA officials wrote. The letter was signed by John Rowan, national president; Marsha Four, national vice president; and Felix Peterson, chairman of the organization’s National Committee on Policy and Government Affairs.
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Burr’s letter on Friday took most of those who testified at a May 15 hearing to task because they did not agree with him that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign over allegations of mishandling of VA medical appointments.
Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and governmental affairs with the VVA, who testified at the May 15 meeting, said in an interview on Tuesday that Shinseki should stay to fix the problems.
Weidman said he was stunned and angry over Burr’s remarks, but then got over it and back to work.
“Everyone who knows me thought it was really funny that I was accused of ‘go along, get along’ with executive branch officials, because we are known for speaking the truth and being very plain,” he said.
He said his past dealings with Burr had been very cordial, which was why he was so taken aback by Burr’s letter. “If he wanted to meet with us tomorrow, we’d meet with him,” Weidman said.
Earlier Tuesday, before the VVA letter, Burr responded to some of the veterans service organizations who were quoted in a New York Times story on Monday.
“The reaction from some of the VSOs – VFW, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), and PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) – seems to prove my point: They are far more outraged by my words than they have been thus far by any of the unfolding VA scandal or Secretary Shinseki's mismanagement of the agency. How many IG, Special Counsel, GAO, and Medical Investigator reports does it take to spur outrage and prompt action? Their position is even harder to understand in light of the statements made by the American Legion, IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), CVA (Concerned Veterans for America), and others," Burr said in a statement on Tuesday.