President Barack Obama spoke today to hundreds of American Legion veterans who had gathered in Charlotte, NC, for their national convention. His remarks come just months after a health care scandal and leadership change at the top of the Veterans Administration. The President announced 19 new executive actions to improve veterans' care -- one of which focuses on the rising rate of suicides among former soldiers.
"We're expanding suicide prevention training...across the military and the VA, so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help," Obama said. "We'll improve access to care with more peer support -- veterans counseling veterans at VA hospitals and clinics."
Obama: we have to end the disability backlog. We must end the tragedy of homeless vets.
— Tom Bullock (@TomWFAE) August 26, 2014
The President praised new Veterans Administration secretary Robert McDonnell for beginning to improve veterans' care -- even as many military men and women prepare to come home from Afghanistan.
Both of North Carolina's U.S. senators also spoke to the convention, pledging to insure the timely delivery of health care to veterans. Both Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan emphasized that changes in delivering veterans' care will take time. Hagan said she's glad the President made the trip to speak to veterans personally.
"I've told the President that promises alone aren't going to get it done. The administration, I do believe, understands that we need a complete change in culture at the V.A.," Hagan said.
Meanwhile, Senator Burr said he supports the changes being made, but emphasized that they're only first steps that need the backing of veterans to take hold.
President Obama signed a 16 billion dollar package into law that was designed to fix long hospital wait times and provide methods to help reduce suicide rates among soldiers.