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February 10, 2016

Vietnam Veterans Group Joins Outrage Over Burr’s VA Letter

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group representing veterans from the Vietnam War has joined several other organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in blasting Sen. Richard M. Burr’s recent open letter to veterans.

In a missive sent Tuesday afternoon to the ranking Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the leadership of Vietnam Veterans of America “write to express our astonishment at your insulting remarks about the testimony and staff.”

“Your ugly comments and false accusations about VSOs and their staff will not resolve any of the VA’s problems. VVA believes it is not the time, at this crucial juncture, for throwing stones or issuing caustic statements. It is a time when we must be uniting forces with a strong resolve, entering into direct and continuing dialog to address the issues that stand before us now,” the newest letter said. “This is our inherent mission … our responsibility … our duty.”

The organization also chides Burr for departing from the May 15 hearing with various veterans service organizations before everyone had testified.

“Having left the hearing early, thereby missing the testimony delivered by the last two panels at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on May 15, 2014, you may wish to review the actual delivered testimony and submitted written testimony by VVA and our colleagues,” the VVA said in its letter, which was signed by National President John Rowan, National Vice President Marsha Four and National Committee on Policy and Government Affairs Chairman Felix Peterson.

Burr had responded to earlier letters from veterans’ service organizations in a Sunday statement to CQ Roll Call,saying, “It’s clear that my open letter to America’s veterans has outraged some VSOs more than the scandals at VA.”

Text of the letter appears below:

Dear Senator Burr:

On behalf of the membership of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), we write to express our astonishment at your insulting remarks about the testimony and staff of VSOs in your May 23 “Open Letter to America’s Veterans.” 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.”

And similarly, for you to state that VSO executive staff “ignored the constant VA problems expressed by their members and is more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections…,” is blatantly false and, in reality, is perhaps more reflective of your lack of knowledge of the character, integrity, and honor of these fine people who serve their membership. The VVA staff is known for their candor and bluntness when discussing problems with health care and other vitally needed veteran services, either with VA officials or with Members or Senators in the Congress.

Every annual testimony that VVA has delivered since 1999 has stressed the need for much greater accountability for how the funds are spent by VA. In the last few years we have very bluntly testified that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is hiring way too many chiefs who deliver no direct patient care, and not hiring more direct service providers, which we believe was the Congressional intent of the significant increases in funding between FY 2007 through FY 2010.

As we did for the 112th Congress and for the current 113th Congress, VVA will continue to press for the delivery of timely, quality medical care for veterans at Veterans Health Administration facilities across the country. This includes timely access, proper use of clinical resources in the provision of medical services and care, as well as administrative reforms where necessary, to eliminate barriers in the delivery of quality health care.

Your letter of May 23 and its tone do absolutely nothing to serve the health-care interests of America’s veterans. Your ugly comments and false accusations about VSOs and their staff will not resolve any of the VA’s problems. VVA believes it is not the time, at this crucial juncture, for throwing stones or issuing caustic statements. It is a time when we must be uniting forces with a strong resolve, entering into direct and continuing dialog to address the issues that stand before us now. This is our inherent mission… our responsibility… our duty.

Having left the hearing early, thereby missing the testimony delivered by the last two panels at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on May 15, 2014, you may wish to review the actual delivered testimony and submitted written testimony by VVA and our colleagues. For your convenience, the link to review the tape of that hearing can be found at:

http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings/the-state-of-va-health-care-051514

As we move forward, you may wish to thoughtfully consider the recommendations and suggestions found therein. As always, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) stands ready to work with any elected or appointed official who is interested in improving access to clinical care at the VA, as well as improving the quality of said care.

 

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