CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama spoke to thousands of veterans, from all 50 states, at the American Legion Convention on Tuesday, and made multiple statements about the treatment of veterans in America.
“The misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities, with long wait times, and veterans denied care, and folks cooking the books, is outrageous and inexcusable,” Obama said, regarding the VA.
Obama spoke about the VA more than any other subject during the speech. One of his best received statements was his plan for reducing the trend of American veterans committing suicide.
“Veterans called for it, we heard it. Which is why today, I’m announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental healthcare for those American heroes and their families,” said the President, who was then cheered by the majority of the crowd.
President Obama touched upon some of the actions, which included transitioning veterans with mental disorders like PTSD into the VA immediately, so they would never be without their medications.
He also spoke about improving resources to colleagues and clinicians can recognize warning signs of mental disorders earlier than in the past. The President said this is especially crucial with the new wave of veterans coming home from overseas.
“It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend, pick up the phone, you are not alone,” said the President. “If you see someone in uniform, or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help. They were there for America, we now need to be there for them.”
President Obama also touched upon the notion of tailored treatment for veterans, and singled out female veterans when it comes to specialized treatments in the VA.
The President also spoke about homeless veterans, and how his administration has reduced the number of homeless vets by 1/3. He estimated that at 25,000 veterans who are no longer homeless. He then vowed that they would not stop until “every veteran who defended America, has a home in America.”
He went on to talk about pushing businesses to hire veterans. He specifically brought up medics in the military, saying if they can operate a million dollar piece of equipment in a war zone, he’s confident they can do the same here at home.
Obama also spoke about bringing those responsible for the murder of journalist James Foley to justice, saying our country’s “reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done.”
For many veterans, the speech was exactly what they wanted to hear.
“Basically, doing what America is supposed to do for the veterans, you know. Sticking up for the veterans, that’s the most important part,” said Jerry McClough, of Greensboro.
McClough has seen the struggles his fellow veterans have gone through in waiting to get treatment, and believes the plan in place is the correct route.
“Transitioning from, from active duty straight on to the VA system, which is awesome,” said McClough. “The system should work.”
However, not all of the veterans were convinced the President will follow through on his promises.
“I don’t think he knows the truth from a lie to be honest with you,” said Curtis Leary, of Cary.
Yet, even Leary says since the crackdown, the VA has improved.
“So far that’s starting come through, and I’m glad to see that. There’s a lot of people out there that need help,” said Leary.