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Veterans Know Shinseki Departure Is No Cure for VA Mess

As we mentioned three years ago while telling the story of 21-year-old Army Specialist Adam Kuligowski -- who took his rifle into a bathroom stall at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and shot himself on April 6, 2009 -- often the very drugs soldiers are using to combat depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder are the ones interacting with other drugs and pushing military personnel toward suicide.

For simply attempting to get the basic Veterans Affairs benefits promised to members of the Armed Forces, veterans service organizations were chastised by a senator who never had so much as a cup of coffee in the military, let alone served long enough to endure life-altering trauma from the experience. The veterans, for their part, didn't let his criticism stand unanswered. The VFW's response, which reminded Burr that all veterans associations have been trying to call attention to recent VA shortcomings since 2005, set the tone:

For years, the VFW has come to Congress with hat in hand and for years, we've heard the same old story. You can be assured Senator, that you've done a superb job in showing us the error in our ways. You can also be assured that in the future, we will spend a substantial percentage of our time seeking to inform our members and our constituents of the repeated failure to act by our elected officials.

The PAV was even less kind:

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.

Burr, for his part, decided it was wholly appropriate to issue the following retort to the veterans groups on Memorial Day weekend: "Clearly I hit a nerve. I think they've shown more outrage toward my open letter than outrage toward the current crisis at the VA."

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