May 25, 2014
Honorable Richard Burr
Ranking Minority Member
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
825A Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Burr:
On behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and its members, I write to express our deepest disappointment with the actions that you took leading into the Memorial Day weekend. Your “open” letter to all veterans clearly displays why the vast majority of the American public puts no faith in their elected officials to do what is right for this country. You truly should be ashamed for being so bold as to challenge veterans’ service organizations (VSO) and the veterans who represent our organizations on a weekend when we clearly know more about what the holiday represents than you do. 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.
Perhaps you should be reminded of just how much you support veterans and their families in this country. Given the opportunity to support legislation that would remove all of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget from the partisan bickering and political gridlock, of which you are an active participant, that has completely crippled the appropriations process, you opposed that legislation. Given the opportunity to support legislation that would ensure all generations of veterans, not just Post-9/11 era veterans, have access to the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance program administered by the VA, you chose to oppose that legislation. Given the opportunity to support legislation that would provide reproductive assistance to veterans whose catastrophic disabilities rendered them unable to have children, you chose to oppose that legislation. Given the opportunity to ensure that the VA has fully sufficient resources to establish adequate capacity and properly meet the health care demands of veterans, you have chosen to send them out into the private health care marketplace that cares more about the bottom dollar than the health and well-being of those men and women. Senator, your continued efforts to simply “fix” the VA’s problem by privatizing health care shows that you are more interested in diminishing the VA health care system and promoting your political interests.
Paralyzed Veterans, and our counterparts in the VSO community, are particularly offended by your comments about the testimony provided by our professionals (all of whom are actually veterans and members of their respective organizations) during the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing held on May 15, 2014. Perhaps you should have shared with all veterans in your “open” letter that you cared so much about their health care that you were not actually present during the testimony that the VSO representatives provided and you did not ask a single question to gauge our recommendations about how to fix the problems the VA health care system is facing. To the credit of your colleagues on the Committee, every other member actually took the time to engage with the VSO panel and ask pointed and substantive questions.
Your actions in remembrance of Memorial Day clearly show why the vast majority of the American public believes that the U.S. Congress is out of touch. Rest assured, you do not speak for or represent the interests of Paralyzed Veterans’ members—veterans with spinal cord injury or dysfunction—or any other VSO. We would be happy to meet with you at anytime and discuss real solutions to address the problems facing the VA.
We stand ready to ensure that veterans get the best quality health care and benefits that they have earned. Do you?
Bill Lawson Homer S. Townsend, Jr.
National President Executive Director
cc: Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
Honorable Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader
Honorable Bernie Sanders, Chairman, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
View Sherman Gillums, Jr., on "CBS This Morning" on this topic