WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama pledged Monday to make good on his promise to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs, and said he would "dramatically improve" mental health aid.
Flanked by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the president said his budget calls for a $25 billion increase in funding for the VA over the next five years - a commitment that will be tested by the needs presented by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"With this budget, we don't just fully fund our Veterans Affairs health care program, we expand it to serve an additional 500,000 veterans by 2013," he said.
He promised that the VA would "dramatically improve services" related to mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury - and said homeless veterans would be targeted for support.
"Those heroes have a home," he said. "It's the country they served, the United States of America, and until we reach a day when not a single veteran sleeps on our nation's streets, our work remains unfinished."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veterans groups are warning President Barack Obama against going ahead with a possible administration move to charge veterans' private health care for service-related injuries.
In a letter sent by 11 of the most prominent veterans organizations, the groups warned that the idea "is wholly unacceptable and a total abrogation of our government's moral and legal responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much."
CNN obtained a copy of the letter sent to the White House last Friday by groups including The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
A White House spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the option is being considered.
"The details of specific proposals will be transmitted with the full submission in April. The president has made it clear that meeting the needs of veterans is one of his priorities, and as a result has requested an 11 percent increase in discretionary funding for 2010, and the administration is actively working with the veterans community to ensure we get the details of this budget right," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.
In the letter, the groups said they have been told by sources on Capitol Hill and at the VA that the idea under consideration would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to bill health insurance for a treatment of a disability or injury that was a result of military service.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama plans to nominate Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth to a communications post at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the White House announced Tuesday.
“Effective communications with Veterans and VA’s stakeholders is key to improving our services and ensuring Veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement released by the White House “Tammy Duckworth brings significant talent, leadership and personal experience to this important work,” added Shinseki.
Duckworth will be named the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the VA. She will be responsible for public affairs, internal communications and intergovernmental relations, and will oversee programs for homeless veterans, consumer affairs and special rehabilitative events.
Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of one arm when a helicopter she was piloting was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. At the time, Duckworth was a major in the Illinois National Guard in Iraq.
She is currently the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2006, Duckworth mounted an unsuccessful bid to represent the state’s 6th District in the House of Representatives.