Obama announces new efforts for vets in politically tinged North Carolina visit
August 26th, 2014
07:15 AM ET
4 months ago

Obama announces new efforts for vets in politically tinged North Carolina visit

Updated 2:05 p.m. ET, 8/26/2014

Charlotte (CNN) – President Barack Obama detailed Tuesday how his administration is attempting to rectify shortfalls in caring for war veterans, just as new threats abroad could require more sacrifices for American military families.

Speaking at the annual American Legion conference in Charlotte, Obama announced new executive actions aimed at improving mental health services and financial opportunities for servicemen and women, months after allegations of massive wrongdoing surfaced at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

His remarks came as the United States contemplates further action to stem the expansion of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, including airstrikes. The President declared in front of roughly 7,000 legionnaires in Charlotte on Tuesday he was ready to “take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland,” but added that under no circumstances would American combat troops return to Iraq.

“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy, and it won't be quick,” Obama said, using the administration's name for the terrorist group which last week beheaded an American freelance journalist, James Foley.

“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple: America does not forget our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done,” he said.

The actions to improve veterans care Obama announced Tuesday included expanding research into post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries, developing ways to prevent suicide among veterans, and making it easier for veterans to transition into mental health services provided by civilian doctors or the VA after leaving active duty.

The President also announced new partnerships with financial lenders to make it easier for veterans to negotiate lower mortgage and student loan interest rates.

The systemic problems within the veterans’ department led to the resignation of Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general who had headed the troubled agency since Obama took office in 2009. The American Legion, whose annual conference Obama spoke at Tuesday, was among several veterans groups calling for Shinseki to step down.

His replacement, former corporate chief Robert McDonald, was approved unanimously by the Senate at the end of July. Lawmakers also green-lighted $16 billion in new funding to build more VA facilities and hire more workers, though some said the measure didn’t do enough to criminalize the wrongdoing at the agency.

Obama on Tuesday said revelations veterans waited months for care while managers attempted to cover it up were “outrageous and inexcusable.”

“We’re focused on this at the highest levels,” Obama told the American Legion crowd. “We are going to get to the bottom of these problems. We're going to fix what is wrong. We're going to do right by you. And we are going to do right by your families. And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I'm making to you here.”

His appearance in North Carolina comes as that state’s incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan faces a tough battle for re-election. Attacks by her Republican rival heavily feature her support for some of Obama’s more controversial programs.

It was initially unclear whether Obama and Hagan would appear together Tuesday. She greeted Obama with a hug and a kiss on the cheek on the tarmac after Air Force One’s arrival. She also spoke after him on the American Legion stage.

But before their friendly encounter, Hagan released a statement saying Obama’s administration hasn’t yet done enough to regain the trust of veterans after the agency scandal.


Filed under: President Obama • Veterans • Veterans Affairs
soundoff (167 Responses)
  1. Ol' Yeller

    @tacpilot

    "Thanks to the cut and run Democrats, the incompetence of Obama and Hillary, we are now in a mess that could have been prevented. They both the supported the big “Arab Spring”… and the Middle east is under the control of radical Muslims…..
    If you watched the President’s speech, the attendees were very polite. They know a crock of crap when they hear it…. But as good Troopers, they respected the Office…..
    Bush and Cheney were wrong… we should have never gone into Iraq… We should have concentrated on Afghanistan….. After being in Iraq and Afghanistan three times each, I have the right to say that…."

    I'm a bit confused here, first you write... "Thanks to the cut and run Democrats, the incompetence of Obama and Hillary...", then later you write... "Bush and Cheney were wrong… we should have never gone into Iraq…"; am I to take away from this that we should have stayed in Iraq despite your (and everyone else's) assessment it was a mistake? If you think your neighbor kidnapped your child, so you kick in the door only to find you were 100% incorrect, you should still not leave his home (based on some he-man principle I was never taught, I presume)?

    If we made a huge mistake (and we did) the only way to fix it would be to immediately take steps upon realizing our mistake to correct it (i.e. leave the country we invaded without just cause- same goes for Afghanistan as far as I am concerned). For you to describe Democrats, for their correcting the egregious errors of bush/cheney, as 'cut and run' is disingenuous at best... cowardly at worst.
    If you truly served... thank you for your service, but I cannot agree with your obvious partisan opinion.
    What Obama did was right and it was a long time coming. It was one of his campaign promises, he kept it, and I for one applaud him for it. If we were all to get our panties in a wad every time some righty trotted our their version of 'How Obama ruined my Country' (which apparently there was a choice between that and 'What I did this Summer' as the Sophomore essay) we'd all be walking around funny... luckily, I belong to the 'We don't get our patnies in a wad, we point and laugh at those who do... Party'.
    If you'd like to join, we have plenty of room in our tent. We don't have purity tests and free thinking isn't just encouraged, it is expected. We are unorganized and not always on the same page... but we are relentless in our fight for 'liberty and justice for ALL' (so many people forget that crucial last part).
    PEACE.

    August 26, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    "Cut and run" describes Rand Paul's exit strategy when confronted with immigrants and burgers.

    August 26, 2014 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  3. Eagle0841

    The tepid applause Obama got tells it all. Funny how the drones say no scandal when both the IRS and VA officials apologized for their incompetence and corruption. Then the press goes in full defense mode for Obama and now nothing was done wrong. All made up. All faux scandals. Blah, blah blah. So why did they apologize for something they "never" did and was made up? Keep drinking the Koolaide drones.

    August 26, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. vikingwoman

    ISIL is not the 'administrations name' for the dangerous off-shoot of al-Qaeda! It is UN terminology! ISIS refers to Iraq & Syria, while ISIL refers to this groups efforts to take over all Islamic nations! Saying it's the administration's name makes it sound like it was something they made up, it's a bit of an insult! But that's par for the course in this contrary political climate for this president!!

    August 26, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. sly

    This is all a lie – thousands, perhaps a million vets, have died because of President Obama and the VA.

    People – listen to us Tea Partiers – don't believe the press, the media, especially not the scientists.

    And where is His Birth Certificate? Huh? I haven't seen it, so the last 7 years didn't really count. Mitt Romney was really President, and he is doing a good job.

    August 26, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    sly – You made the best post today.

    August 26, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. smith

    @DM40-Actually the numbers I posted leave questions as well. First, I shoudn`t have put the word cut in my comment because the 3936 is the minus difference from 2009 to 2013 in the four branches. Second, what about new recruits from 2009 to 2013? Third, What about the service members changing status from active to reserve or vice versa. Last, we know the cuts have been made and in 2009 the Deparment of the Navy introduced PTS(which is a set standards to meet to reenlist) to the Navy and Marines. Since 2009 there is a minus 12,000 difference from those two branches. The Air Force has seen a surge of over plus 7,000 since 2009 and little change in the Army.

    August 26, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    Dean is wrong again.

    August 26, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. Tom

    What this country has become is a place where vets are ignored and medical care (and everything else) is given to the refuse dumped here from central America

    August 26, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  10. Lardoggy

    Talk,talk,talk more talk,do nothing,more talk.

    August 26, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. The REAL Truth...

    @sly – This is all a lie – thousands, perhaps a million vets, have died because of President Obama and the VA.
    -----------------------------
    Get a grip Charlie.. the problems at the VA have as much to do with Obama as they did with Dubya. Zip!!
    The VA problems are systemic, and had you been alive during the Johnson thru Reagan era's, you'd know not much has changed.
    The defense mode by the press is due to the fact that the right wing propaganda is totally unsubstantiated, and the faux outrage is due to your Party becoming irrelevant and to be honest, it's gotten REALLY OLD!
    The IRS did their job (over-zealously maybe) but not under the direction of the WH (much as it pains the right) and with no more targeting of conservative than liberal groups. Issa's witch hunt would be DOA had he granted Lerner immunity, but he can't do that or the parties over honey!
    Intelligent Americans realize that the GOP has been after the current occupant since day one in office. They have failed miserably and for the last FIVE yrs have been acting like the kids that started the house fire, then sat on the other side of the street criticizing how the fire dept is going about putting it out.

    August 26, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. The REAL Truth...

    @willhaas – Our President just loves to travel at the tax payers expenxe and add CO2 to the atmosphere. He did not have to go to Charlotte to give thispeechch. He could have given it at the White House and the media would have broadcast it all over the world.
    -------------------------
    haha.. had he done that from the WH you'd be whining about how he's above the vets, and should have traveled there in person.... meanwhile you expend additional flatulence into the atmosphere!

    August 26, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. slick

    So a veteran develops a non-service related medical condition (diabetes, cancer, ALS, you name it) and the VA treats this non-service related illness for free? What a bunch of hooey. These same vets are probably also the same critics who denounce welfare for civilians. What's the difference. Id the vet got his/her medical condition while in the service, the taxpayer should rightly pay. For non-service related medical conditions, the vets can get in line with the rest of the unwashed. This is the largest welfare scam in the world. Get a pimple on yer butt and expect the taxpayer to pay because once upon a time you were in he service I don't think so!.

    August 26, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. carol verges mcpherson

    Why is it that on one of the busiest boulevards Veterans Memorial Boulevard with a large American Flag that it is extremely dangerous to walk and shop. Handicapped people could not possible use when someone who is not finds it very hard to manuever? Apparently i

    August 26, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. D Frazee

    I'm constantly amazed at how the executive branch will saddle up Air Force 1 and in this case take a flight to Charlotte NC to do a short speech at the American Legion convention, then jet right back to DC. With the fantastic video conferencing technology available now why couldn't the President give his speech that way? I'd reckon several million dollars spent to support squads of Secret Service Agents, transporting two "Beast" Presidential Limos to Charlotte and back to DC, driving a small fleet of Secret Service chase cars, escort vehicles and SWAT transports to Charlotte and back to DC and all the attendant per diem for the supporting cast to arrive early, stay several days (or a week or more for the advance team) and return to DC... Ridiculous!

    August 26, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Ol' Yeller

    @Eagle0841
    "The tepid applause Obama got tells it all. Funny how the drones say no scandal when both the IRS and VA officials apologized for their incompetence and corruption. Then the press goes in full defense mode for Obama and now nothing was done wrong. All made up. All faux scandals. Blah, blah blah. So why did they apologize for something they "never" did and was made up? Keep drinking the Koolaide drones."

    Oh, I don't think anyone on the left has ever claimed nothing was wrong... they just aren't willing to hand over Obama to the issus inquisition board to be water boarded and have bamboo slivers put under his finger nails until he confesses to being born in Kenyan, to having singlehandely caused the Hindenburg to explode, to have sank the Maine, and all the other whacky 'scandals' you and your ilk pull out of your arses on a daily basis.

    I got an idea... why don't you all impeach him? The Constitution allows for the House, (which your whacko birds fully control) to impeach President Obama.
    So why don't ya'll just impeach him if he has broken so many laws and been directly pulling the strings of every scandal created in hannity writing room since day one?
    You don't because you know what that would lead to. Even you brain dead lackeys have enough brain cells (and faux news is NOT telling you to do this, or else you'd be on here whining to do it daily) to realize that would be the last straw for the American people and the backlash would likely deliver us the House; gerrymandering or not.
    I willl give you rubes that.... so far you have not been stoopid enough to repeat that mistake (but, I still have hopes cruz or some other idiot will get you fired up to do it (but, you won't... not until faux or rush or the koch masters tell you to).
    I think your hopes would then lie solely in boner's leadership...

    and I can't tell you how much that makes me smile.

    August 26, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. Ol' Yeller

    @The REAL Truth...

    @sly – This is all a lie – thousands, perhaps a million vets, have died because of President Obama and the VA.
    ---------–
    Get a grip Charlie.. the problems at the VA have as much to do with Obama as they did with Dubya. Zip!!

    You might want to go back and read this with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek....

    August 26, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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