VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called out a federal union for suggesting veterans hurt by the partial government shutdown might resort to suicide — but union bigs pushed back, charging the Trump administration is leaving vets out in the "cold."
In a letter sent Monday to J. David Cox, head of the American Federation of Government Employees, Wilkie demanded an apology, Military.com reported.
"The notion that most veterans are so fragile from their service that the slightest hint of hardship can push them to the brink of mental breakdown or even self-harm is preposterous," Wilkie said in the letter, the news outlet reported.
"One of the most insulting and misleading stereotypes about veterans today is that of the 'veteran as victim,' which is why veterans and veteran advocates are continuously fighting this shopworn canard."
The letter singled out Edward Canales, a federal Bureau of Prisons employee in California, a 100 percent disabled Army vet and president of AFGE Local 3584. Wilkie said Canales told ABC News 2 last week, "If this shutdown does not stop, we are going to have fatalities. We're going to have suicides."
Canales "exploited the real tragedy of veteran suicide to make political arguments about the partial government shutdown," Wilkie charged.
"I ask you to apologize publicly for your AFGE colleague's reckless comments and to outline the steps you plan to take to ensure AFGE leaders demonstrate proper respect for our nation's heroes."
Cox, however, pushed back — calling the Trump administration "one of the worst on record for our country's heroes," and blaming it for the shutdown.
"Federal government-employed veterans are hurting right now," he said, the military news outlet reported.
"Regardless of their continued service to our country, the president and his Cabinet have left them out in the cold, forcing them to work without pay or subjecting veterans and their families to the uncertainty of not knowing when or where their next paycheck will come from," he charged.
Will Attig, executive director of the Union Veterans Council of the AFL-CIO, told Mililtary.com Wilkie is ignoring the financial insecurity that studies have shown could put veterans at risk.
"We believe this letter [from Wilkie] is an attempt to whitewash the issue," he declared, adding: "We're hearing it from hundreds of veterans every day. We're all hearing the same thing – the stress from the financial insecurity."
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