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October 7, 2015

In VA Scandal Fallout, Disabled American Veterans ‘Outraged’ at Burr, Blames Congress for Lack of Funding

Richard Burr VA Secretary Eric Shinseki DAV Veterans

Burr, left, is under fire for suggesting leaders of veterans groups care more about access to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki than they do about veterans after not calling for a change in leadership in the VA scandal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Richard Burr’s statement ripping the leaders of veterans’ groups Friday has sparked a second letter of outrage, this time from Disabled American Veterans, in the latest fallout from the VA scandal.

After the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) torched Burr, R-N.C., Saturday for a “monumental cheap-shot,” DAV National Commander Joseph W. Johnston issued a statement of his own.

Johnston defended his and other groups’ decision not to join the American Legion’s calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and blamed a lack of funding from Congress for much of the VA’s troubles.

“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,” Johnston wrote.

Burr dismissed the criticism in a statement later Sunday, suggesting that groups were more outraged by his letter than they were by the VA scandal.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is one of Burr’s best friends. He said last week he was getting “closer” to calling for Shinseki’s resignation.

The blistering VFW letter and Burr’s original letter are posted here.

The full DAV statement:

DAV is outraged that North Carolina’s Senator Richard Burr chose the eve of Memorial Day weekend – a sacred time to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation — to attack the patriotism of leaders of most of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations.

Last week at a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, DAV and other veteran service organizations offered comprehensive testimony on the underlying causes of the waiting list problems afflicting VA health care facilities that are currently under investigation. In addition to demanding full accountability for anyone found to have violated VA rules, regulations or laws, we provided detailed analysis and forward-looking recommendations to address the root cause of waiting lists: lack of access and capacity to treat all veterans seeking care.

Although Senator Burr attended much of that hearing, apparently all he wanted to hear were calls for the VA Secretary to resign. 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.

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 serving their fellow veterans.

In spite of Senator Burr’s attacks, we will continue to call for an open and comprehensive investigation in Phoenix and at any other VA facility where wrongdoings are alleged. While Senator Burr challenges our integrity, we will continue to demand full accountability for all who violated the public trust, regardless of who or where they are, including criminal prosecution if warranted. While Senator Burr ignores VA’s real challenges, we will continue to call for an independent review not just of VA’s wait list and scheduling problems, but the access and capacity deficits that created them.

History clearly shows that unless VA receives sufficient resources to hire enough doctors and nurses, and has enough physical space to treat veterans, waiting list problems will continue. Over the past decade, DAV – along with many of our veteran service organization partners – have pointed out that the VA has received more than $17 billion less than was needed, a figure that is primarily derived from VA’s own internal analysis. Although these facts have been clear to successive Administrations and Congresses – including Senator Burr – none took the actions necessary to provide VA the resources it requires.

Rather than be distracted by Senator Burr’s hollow insults, we will continue to reach out to thoughtful Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House, as well as the President and leaders in VA, to join with us in taking an honest look at all the facts, to discuss with us all possible remedies and reforms and to work with us to implement solutions that truly honor the heroism of the men and women we remember this Memorial Day weekend.

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  1. ShadrachSmith

    May 25, 2014
    11:49 a.m.

    Using secret wait lists to make your numbers look better has nothing to do with lack of funding. It is an extreme form of a willingness to lie to the public to make the government service look better than it is. It is a willingness to let people die, to improve the government’s health care numbers.

    That is why it resonates as the government takes over health care. By whatever name, Palin had a point about the government letting people die.

    • Ulyssess

      May 26, 2014
      2:38 p.m.

      I believe Palin was referring to times before Obamacare. Greyson correctly state that the republican plan was: If you get sick, just die. As for you, caught up with a mind honed on Fox “news”—how’s that go?—“Why run if you’re on the wrong road?”

      • ShadrachSmith

        May 26, 2014
        7:08 p.m.

        It’s a metaphor, it means that patient service isn’t what government agencies are all about. It means that what is really important to government bureaucrats is status, pay, and perks. The fact that patients die from neglect isn’t enough to get fired over, so why sweat it.

        Remember Jeff Neely’s famous bathtub shot? That makes the same metaphor visually. The point is that not everybody in the government is eager to serve humanity. And Obamacare puts the government in charge of our medical care…am I still going too fast?

        • Layla

          May 27, 2014
          9:54 a.m.

          No, you’re doing just fine!

        • mikem42

          May 27, 2014
          12:17 p.m.

          Citing Palin alone is a disqualifier to serious consideration of your position. The ACA, or Obamacare as you like to say, opens up to many insurance companies the ability to sign up new customers. The buyer can pick the best plan for their situation, and they are insured. The best plan in the country is Medicare, which is a single payer plan, loved by all who have it. Don’t keep hoping that we can’t provide health care insurance leading to care for all. This country needs this in order to move forward. A healthy country will be a successful country.

          • Michael Becker

            May 27, 2014
            1:56 p.m.

            You have no clue about either the private sector or free enterprise. With respect to Obamacare, the federal government specifies what the coverage has to be. It’s not a free market.

            The only reason insurance companies are getting new customers, and that remains to be seen, is that the federal government is paying their premiums.

            Medicare is a lousy plan. It’s about $70 trillion underfunded for starters. The big immediate problem is that legislation called “the doc fix” must be passed every budget cycle to keep reimbursements even close to the actual cost. The day that doesn’t pass, you won’t be able to find a doctor who will treat you, and it’s difficult now if you don’t have a longstanding relationship with a doctor. Most are not taking new Medicare patients.

            Take a look at Covered California if you want to see the future of Medicare. There are many counties in the state where no doctors or hospitals will accept CC because of the low reimbursements and it’s getting worse by the day.

          • mikem42

            May 27, 2014
            4:27 p.m.

            You are so wrong it hurts. Medicare is not 70 trillion underfunded as you say; the drug part that was put into play by GWB as a giant gift to big Pharma caused a terrible deficit, not related to Medicare proper. As for Obamacare telling what kind of insurance must be offered, you have a correct assumption if you mean the policy must be real. Coverage of previous conditions and remaining on parents policy is also part of it. The companies did not have to join in if they didn’t want to. And as a senior who recently moved I can tell you, every doctor we checked on in our new location accept Medicare gladly. Everyone deserves affordable coverage regardless of political party or status.

          • ShadrachSmith

            May 27, 2014
            2:20 p.m.

            Citing Palin as a disqualifier puts you firmly among the Obamabot sheeple. That is not my fault :-)

          • mikem42

            May 27, 2014
            4:30 p.m.

            I see you responded only to the bait of Palin, but not the substance of my post. I only know that mama grizzly left Wasilla in huge debt it never had before her time in office as mayor, and she quit on Alaska before mid way in her term. She has no record of achievement or accomplishment other than enriching her and her family. That’s not my idea of a good public servant. :-)

          • Layla

            May 28, 2014
            9:39 p.m.

            What is this obsession you have with Mama Grizzly?

          • Layla

            May 28, 2014
            9:39 p.m.

            You are right, they are insured. That does not guarantee them quality healthcare and neither does the VA.


    May 25, 2014
    1:53 p.m.




    May 26, 2014
    2:37 p.m.

    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had problems when he took office and has improved those. As new problems come up, give the man a chance to correct them. Yes, funding would improve the situation. However a look of accountability of work being produced by the employees is another issue. I have been told, to my face by a Wage Grade 7 employee that he could not be fired. Because I was not a Marine that he really didn’t care. (That person and his wife were recently promoted and moved to higher positions with more money in their pockets) That is just one person, I wonder how many feel the same way? A rating card should be issued after each meeting and turned in when getting their next appointment. End of the day, there has to be as many rating cards as clients seen. More work, but it’s a form of accountability. Another suggestion would be to run the VA like a hospital. I live in a rural area, the clinic is equipped with a emergency area. Use that area as a walk in clinic, rotate the doctors. Each giving one day or two depending on the number of doctors. This way, those that are sick can be seen ASAP and not wait the two, three weeks or even months for an appointment when they are well. Columbus, Ohio VA Clinic had something like that set up. When visiting the area and became ill, I walked in, was treated and released within 80 minutes. More clinics need to follow Columbus, Ohio example.

    • Michael Becker

      May 27, 2014
      1:49 p.m.

      There’s nothing new about scheduling problems at the VA, it’s been a problem since the 90s.

      The only new feature, and this is exclusive to the Obama administration and the VA under Shinseki, is that administrators now feel free to take scheduling “off the books” and lie about turn times so they can bump their bonuses.

    • Layla

      May 28, 2014
      9:36 p.m.

      If a CEO screws up, you fire him. Shinseki has screwed up royally.

  4. Tom Denham

    May 26, 2014
    6:20 p.m.

    The Republicans have a long, sad history of promoting wars, putting them on a charge card, and then not helping Vets when they get home. I goes all the way back to Vietnam.

    • Layla

      May 27, 2014
      10:10 a.m.

      Somehow I doubt you have any idea what it means to be a vet, Tom. Both sides have a history of promoting war. The question is, what are they doing about it? Nothing. Veterans are nothing but political pawns to them and unfortunately, the heads of Vets organization have become so immersed in politics themselves, they would also rather attack then see something fixed. If it were fixed, these organizations wouldn’t be necessary and neither would the VA.

    • Michael Becker

      May 27, 2014
      1:46 p.m.

      “It goes all the way back to Vietnam.”

      It was Lyndon Johnson and his idiot Secretary of Defense who started and then sold out the war effort in Vietnam. It was liberal Democrats down the line that sold out the Republic of Vietnam after we pulled out, and it was liberal Democrats who sold out, and have been selling out, the military and veterans since then.

      You’re right, being sold out by Democrats goes all the way back to Lyndon Johnson & Company.

      And, FWIW, Obama has put more money on the US charge card in five years that the cost of all the wars since Vietnam. And in his case, we’ve gotten exactly nothing for any of that money.

    • Layla

      May 28, 2014
      9:35 p.m.

      I hate to tell you this, Tom, but we’ve had several Dem Presidents since Vietnam and NOT ONE of them has bothered to try and fix this.

  5. Layla

    May 27, 2014
    10:07 a.m.

    Let’s all attack, that will fix it…yeah. The President is “outraged” and will look into it. What’s changed today? Nothing, except more attacks. No wonder this country is in heart failure.

  6. Joshua Sniegowski

    May 28, 2014
    11:46 a.m.

    So, the DAV is finally outraged. hey are now outraged about being called out for their neglect of their members. They have not once expressed “outrage” at the VA. The national HQ of DAV, VFW, and PVA are too concerned about their relationship with the VA to stand up to them and be true veteran’s advocates. They would be better served as VA employees.

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