“We call on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to immediately fire every employee and supervisor who knowingly gamed the reporting system,” demanded William A. Thien, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “The VA is entrusted with the care and treatment of our nation’s heroes, and there are people in Phoenix and possibly elsewhere who failed miserably, and quite possibly, criminally,” he said. “There are no second chances when you deal with people’s lives, and that includes everyone in senior leadership who should have known but didn’t, or knew but didn’t care.”
“Military veterans are used to waiting in lines, but no veteran should ever have to wait for timely access to care for their wounds, illnesses and injuries, said Thien. “In light of the interim report, I want to make it clear to Secretary Shinseki that he needs to move immediately to terminate the employment of those bearing any responsibility for this travesty. And if the final IG report confirms willful negligence, then those responsible need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Anything less will not be tolerated by the VFW.”
This represents a change in stance from Saturday, when the leadership of the VFW torched Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) for writing an open letter that was critical of unnamed veterans groups because they had not yet called for new leadership at the VA.
Via Roll Call:
In his letter, Burr, the Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee praised the American Legion, which has called for Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and suggested that the leadership staff of other veterans’ groups — without naming them — care more about access to Shinseki than they do about veterans.
“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,” Burr charged. “I fear that change within the VA will not be possible unless and until these organizations also reconsider their role as well as the nature of their relationship with VA.”
The VFW responded late Saturday with a lengthy missive of its own.“I will afford you the same amount of respect you demonstrated for the Veterans of Foreign Wars by the monumental cheap-shot and posturing you’ve engaged in by enlisting in an absolutely disgusting ambush style of politics,” the three-page letter began.
“Without the courtesy or benefit of conversation or dialogue with me or the VFW Adjutant General regarding your disagreement with VFW’s recent testimony to your committee, you chose instead to take the low road and question VFW’s motives and levy a pejorative personal attack on VFW staff.“Senator, this is clearly one of the most dishonorable and grossly inappropriate acts that we’ve witnessed in more than forty years of involvement with the veteran community and breaches the standards of the United States Senate. 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 letter continues on in like fashion.
Asked about the VFW’s reaction on Sunday, Burr said “his letter outraged groups more than the VA scandal.”
But by Wednesday, the VFW was calling for “everyone in senior leadership who should have known but didn’t, or knew but didn’t care” to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. That would seem to include General Shinseki.