There's been a lot going on with Veterans and the VA in the news recently. The revelation that administrators all over the country have been cooking the books to hide criminally long wait times may have rocked the political and civilian landscape but comes to no surprise to those veterans that have been going to the VA for care for years. None of this is new territory. Over the past few weeks, representatives of the major VSOs have been called before Congress to testify. Among those that testified is a fellow Veteran I served with in Iraq and Deputy Legislative Director of the VFW, Ryan Gallucci. What you may not know is that he is also a member of Support No Stigma's Board of Directors. Gallucci has dedicated his entire professional life advocating for our veterans, at the VFW and at AMVETS before that. There is no one I know who has more integrity. After what happened late this past week, I felt compelled to respond to to Senator Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina. Here is what the Senator wrote in an open letter: (Click Here for Official Release)
To the Nation’s Veterans,
This sparked immediate outrage and response from the leadership at the VFW, PVA and the DAV. Before I say my piece, I want you to read their responses: (Click Here for Official VFW response, Here for the PVA response, and Here for DAV response. The full transcripts are also readable below:
Well, that's a lot to absorb. I was furious earlier today. So angry I could spit. I wanted to throw a rant out on the blog to emasculate Senator Burr, but my better judgement and a cooler head prevailed. I thought a lot about what I would say to him if I had the chance and I decided I could also write an open letter. I choose to take a stand with the VFW, DAV, and PVA and I hope, after reading my letter, you will choose to do the same.
In Response to Senator Burr's Open Letter to Veterans:
I really should be thanking you right now. By publishing your letter, you have removed the scales from my eyes. I see clearly now. Your reprehensible choice of timing on the release of your letter, combined with your choice of targets truly show how small of a man you are. Your self-serving and politically motivated message to our nation's veteran community has not fallen on deaf ears. You've roused a giant from his slumber. Despite your service as the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, you have unequivocally and demonstrably illustrated to veterans everywhere just how out of touch you are with our community.
I have been in the care of the VA since I returned home from Iraq in 2004. When I first received treatment, I was one of the first to return. I could see a therapist as often as needed for an hour at a time, my needs seen to immediately. My disability claim was submitted and decided upon in a few short months. Fast forward to 2014: I wait four to five months to see a therapist for twenty minutes at a time, at the mercy of an underfunded and overwhelmed staff at the local outpatient clinic. Veterans wait so long for decisions on their claims for disability compensation.
Why is this happening?
I hold you and the political establishment at large accountable. Over the past decade, our political process has been hamstrung by political partisanship. While Republicans and Democrats have held due political process hostage with a reprehensible disregard for doing what's right in the name of toeing the party line, they have also clamored to claim that their respective party is the only party that cares about veterans and our plight. What has become abundantly clear is that our veterans are viewed by many in Washington as nothing more than political tools to bolster political agendas, couched as actions being taken on our behalf. This cannot continue. From now on, I will be paying particular attention to the track records of incumbents and how well they have ACTED to care for the veteran community in reality. I know this concept may be lost on many in Washington, but actions do speak louder than words.
Senator, since you have such a skewed sense of reality and seem unable to grasp simple concepts, I am compelled to elucidate a few matters that have led to endless partisan bickering in recent weeks:
I hope this has made things a little clearer for you Senator. Considering your position, you should already know all of this. I shouldn't have to explain all of this, yet I am not surprised that I have to. Veterans are not tools to be used to further a political agenda. Supporting the veterans of this great country should be apolitical. If there's one thing elected officials claim to support, it's our community. We will no longer tolerate political posturing. You do what's right by veterans or you lose our support and our votes. Veterans, as a whole, pay attention to what is going on inside the Beltway. We also have a deeply ingrained sense of honor. Maybe next time you consider spewing vitriol at honorable men and women and the organizations they represent you will think twice. Don't worry, Senator. I'm not holding my breath.
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As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.