If you are a sitting U.S. Senator you probably do not want to get letters that begin “On behalf of the membership of Vietnam Veterans of America, we write to express our astonishment at your insulting remarks.” But Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina brought this condemnation upon himself:

Burr, who serves as ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wrote in his letter that staff at various groups “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.”

On Tuesday, VVA said that specific claim “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 group added that his comments do not help veterans. “Your letter of May 23 and its tone do absolutely nothing to serve the health-care interests of America’s veterans,” the group said to Burr. “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.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars was even more blunt, stating that “[we] 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.” They went on to say that the issuance of Senator Burr’s letter was “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.”

The Paralyzed Veterans of America wrote to Burr to express their disappointment:

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.

Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and stands to be the chairman if the Republicans take control of the upper chamber after the November midterm elections. The current chairman, Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is a strong advocate for veterans. I wonder what the military community makes of the distinction between the chairman and the ranking member.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com