OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:
OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- September 7, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 7, 2014
Source: NBC News, 9-7-14
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 7, 2014
Source: WH, 9-6-14
WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the Vice President discusses our continued economic recovery, with 10 million private sector jobs created over the past 54 months. Yet even with this good news, too many Americans are still not seeing the effects of our recovery. As the Vice President explains, there’s more that can be done to continue to bolster our economy and ensure that middle class families benefit from the growth they helped create, including closing tax loopholes, expanding education opportunities, and raising the minimum wage.
Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden
The White House
September 6, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Joe Biden, I’m filling in for President Obama, while he addresses the NATO summit in Wales.
When the President and I took office in January of 2009, this nation was in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression. Our economy had plummeted at a rate of 8% in a single quarter – part of the fastest economic decline any time in the last half century. Millions of families were falling underwater on their homes and threatened with foreclosure. The iconic American automobile industry was under siege.
But yesterday’s jobs report was another reminder of how far we’ve come. We’ve had 54 straight months of job creation. And that’s the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in the United States’ history.
We’ve gone from losing 9 million jobs during the financial crisis to creating 10 million jobs. We’ve reduced the unemployment rate from 10% in October of 2009 to 6.1% today. And for the first time since the 1990s, American manufacturing is steadily adding jobs – over 700,000 since 2010. And surveys of both American and foreign business leaders confirm that America once again is viewed as the best place in the world to build and invest.
That’s all good news. But an awful lot of middle class Americans are still not feeling the effects of this recovery. Since the year 2000, Gross Domestic Product – our GDP – has risen by 25%. And productivity in America is up by 30%. But middle class wages during that same time period have gone up by only fourteen cents.
Folks, it’s long past time to cut the middle class back into the deal, so they can benefit from the economic growth they helped create. Folks, there used to be a bargain in this country supported by Democrats and Republicans, business and labor. The bargain was simple. If an employee contributed to the growth and profitability of the company, they got to share in the profits and the benefits as well. That’s what built the middle class. It’s time to restore the bargain, to deal the middle class back in. Because, folks, when the middle class does well, everybody does well – the wealthy get wealthier and the poor have a way up.
You know, the middle class is not a number. It’s a value set. It means being able to own your home; raise your children in a safe neighborhood; send them to a good school where if they do well they can qualify to go to college and if they get accepted you’d be able to find a way to be able to send them to college. And in the meantime, if your parents need help, being able to take care of them, and hope to put aside enough money so that your children will not have to take care of you.
That’s the American dream. That’s what this country was built on. And that’s what we’re determined to restore.
In order to do that, it’s time to have a fair tax structure, one that values paychecks as much as unearned income and inherited wealth, to take some of the burden off of the middle class. It’s time to close tax loopholes so we can reduce the deficit, and invest in rebuilding America – our bridges, our ports, our highways, rails, providing good jobs.
With corporate profits at near record highs, we should encourage corporations to invest more in research and development and the salaries of their employees. It’s time for us to invest in educational opportunity to guarantee that we have the most highly skilled workforce in the world, for 6 out of every 10 jobs in the near term is going to require some education beyond high school. Folks, it’s long past due to increase the minimum wage that will lift millions of hardworking families out of poverty and in the process produce a ripple effect that boosts wages for the middle class and spurs economic growth for the United States of America. Economists acknowledge that if we do these and other things, wages will go up and we’ll increase the Gross Domestic Product of the United States.
My fellow Americans, we know how to do this. We’ve done it before. It’s the way we used to do business and we can do it that way again. All the middle class in this country want is a chance. No guarantee, just a chance.
Americans want to work. And when given a fair shot, the American worker has never, ever, ever, let his country down. Folks, it’s never a good bet to bet against the American people.
Thanks for listening.
May God bless you, and may God protect our troops.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 6, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 6, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 5, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 4, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on September 3, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 27, 2014
Source: WH, 8-26-14
Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina
12:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Please, everybody, have a seat. Hello, Legionnaires!
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank Commander Dellinger for the introduction, but more importantly, for your service in the Army. And as you conclude your tenure as Commander, thank you for your tireless commitment to America’s veterans.
I want to thank the entire leadership team for welcoming me here today, including your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; your Executive Director in Washington, Peter Gaytan; Nancy Brown-Park, all the spouses, daughters — (applause) — hey! — sisters of the Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion. (Applause.) And let me say that I join you in honoring the memory of a friend to many of you — an Army veteran and a great Legionnaire from North Carolina, Jerry Hedrick. (Applause.)
To Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, Mayor Dan Clodfelter — thank you for welcoming us to the great state of North Carolina and to Charlotte, and for your great support of our troops and our veterans.
And I do have to mention the President of Boys Nation –Matthew Ellow, from Lacey’s Spring, Alabama. I welcomed Matthew and all the incredible young people of Boys and Girls Nation to the White House last month. I was running a little bit late, so they just started singing, filling the White House with patriotic songs. And then they sang Happy Birthday to me, so I was pretty moved. And they’re a tribute to the Legion and to our country.
I’ve brought with me today our new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald. (Applause.) And for those of you who are not aware, Bob is one of America’s most accomplished business leaders. He comes from a military family. He excelled at West Point, served as an Army Airborne Ranger — so he’s got a reputation for jumping into tough situations. (Laughter.) And he’s hit the ground running, visiting hospitals and clinics across the country, hearing directly from veterans and helping us change the way the VA does business. And by the way, Washington doesn’t agree on much these days, but he got confirmed 97 to 0. (Applause.) People understand he’s the right man for the job. He has my full support. And, Bob, I want to thank you for once again serving your country. (Applause.)
It’s an honor to be back with the American Legion. In the story of your service we see the spirit of America. When your country needed you most, you stepped forward. You raised your right hand, you swore a solemn oath. You put on that uniform and earned the title you carry to this day — whether Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman.
Among you are proud veterans of World War II; of Korea; of Vietnam; of Desert Storm and the Balkans; and our newest veterans — from Iraq and Afghanistan. Across the generations, you served with honor. You made us proud. And you carry the memory of friends who never came home — our fallen, our prisoners of war, those missing in action — heroes that our nation can never forget.
When you took off that uniform, you earned another title –the title of veteran. And you never stopped serving. As Legionnaires, you put on that cap, wore that emblem — “for God and country” — and took care of one another, making sure our veterans receive the care and the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve.
And just as you defended America over there, you helped build America here at home — as leaders and role models in your communities, as entrepreneurs and business owners, as champions for a strong national defense. You helped the United States of America become what we are today — the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.
Now, these are challenging times. I don’t have to tell you that. Around the world as well as here at home. You turn on the TV and we’re saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy. And it can be easy to grow cynical or give in to the sense that the future we seek is somehow beyond our reach. But as men and women who have been tested like few others, you should know better. You know that cynicism is not the character of a great nation. And so, even as we face, yes, the hard tasks of our time, we should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world.
Think about it — six years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — in some ways, the crisis had the potential of being worse than the Great Depression — thanks to the decisions we made to rescue our economy, thanks to the determination of the American people, we are stronger at home. Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs — the longest streak of private sector job creation in American history. Construction and housing are rebounding. Our auto industry and manufacturing are booming. Our high school graduation rate is at a record high. More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before. Millions more Americans now have quality, affordable health care. We’ve cut the deficit by more than half. And now we have to sustain this momentum so more people share in this progress, so our economy works for every working American.
And just as we’re stronger at home, the United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on Earth. It’s not even close. We have the most powerful military in history — that’s certainly not close. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are unrivaled. Our economy is the most dynamic. We’ve got the best workers. We’ve got the best businesses. We have the best universities and the best scientists. With our domestic energy revolution, including more renewable energy, we’re more energy independent. Our technologies connect the world. Our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who “yearn to breathe free.” Our founding ideals inspire the oppressed across the globe to reach for their own liberty. That’s who we are. That’s what America is.
And moreover, nobody else can do what we do. No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends. In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace. In times of disaster, no other nation has the capabilities to deliver so much so quickly. No nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies. No nation does more to help people in the far corners of the Earth escape poverty and hunger and disease, and realize their dignity. Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down and they need help, they know who to call — they call us. That’s what American leadership looks like. That’s why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.
Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely. History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences. And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families — our veteran families, because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war. You’re the ones who carry the scars. You know that we should never send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan, and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through. (Applause.) You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.
And that’s why, after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home. It was the right thing to do. It’s why we refocused our efforts in Afghanistan and went after al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds, and training Afghan forces, which are now in the lead for their own security. In just four months, we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end. And we honor every American who served to make this progress possible — (applause) — every single one, especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to keep us safe.
And now, as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in their history, Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress. And as we go forward, we’ll continue to partner with Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States. (Applause.)
Now, as I’ve always made clear, the blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda’s leadership don’t mean the end to the terrorist threat. Al Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland — we’ve seen that in Yemen. Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq and Syria. As Commander-in-Chief, the security of the American people is my highest priority, and that’s why, with the brutal terrorist group ISIL advancing in Iraq, I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors who are there. (Applause.)
And let me say it again: American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. I will not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq. Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves. (Applause.) The limited strikes we’re conducting have been necessary to protect our people, and have helped Iraqi forces begin to push back these terrorists. We’ve also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who were trapped on a mountain. And our airdrops of food and water and medicine show American leadership at our best. And we salute the brave pilots and crews who are making us proud in the skies of Iraq every single day. (Applause.)
And more broadly, the crisis in Iraq underscores how we have to meet today’s evolving terrorist threat. The answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time, and end up feeding extremism. Rather, our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL.
So we’re strengthening our partners — more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria. We’re urging Iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can deliver on national unity, and strong security forces and good governance that are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists. And we’re urging countries in the region and building an international coalition, including our closest allies, to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists.
Today, our prayers are with the Foley family in New Hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother Jim. But 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. We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — (applause) — to go after those who harm Americans. (Applause.)
And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland. And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.
So even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant. We will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs. And as today’s generation of servicemembers keeps us safe, and as they come home, we also have to meet our responsibilities to them, just as they meet their responsibilities to America. (Applause.)
When I was here at the Legion three years ago, I said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation.
And working together, we have made real progress. Think about it. Working with the Legion and other veterans service organizations, we’ve been able to accomplish historic increases to veterans funding. We’ve protected veterans health care from Washington politics with advanced appropriations. We’ve been able to make VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who didn’t have them before, including more Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. (Applause.) We’ve dedicated major new resources for mental health care. We’ve helped more than 1 million veterans and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
And moreover, as the Legion and other veterans groups have said, once veterans get in the door the care you receive from the VA is often very good. The specialized care is among the best in the world. And many of the hardworking folks at the VA are veterans themselves — veterans serving veterans. And we can never thank them enough for their good work.
But what we’ve come to learn is that 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. (Applause.)
As soon as it was disclosed, I got before the American people and I said we would not tolerate it. And we will not. And I know the Legion has been on the frontlines, fanning out across the country, helping veterans who’ve been affected. And I know Bob is going to give you an update on the actions that we’re taking. But what I want you to know, directly from me, is that we’re focused on this at the highest levels. 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. (Applause.)
Already we’re making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held accountable. We’re reaching out to veterans — more than a quarter million so far — to get them off wait lists and into clinics. We’re moving ahead with reforms at the Veterans Health Administration. And to help get that done, you supported, and Congress passed, and I signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which means more resources to help the VA hire more doctors and nurses and staff. It means if you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or your VA doctors can’t see you fast enough, we’ll help you go to a doctor outside the VA.
And we’re instituting a new culture of accountability. Bob doesn’t play. Bob likes to recall a cadet prayer from West Point, which should be the ethos of all of us: “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” And with the new legislation that I signed into law, Bob and the VA now have the authority to more quickly remove senior executives who don’t meet our high standards. If you engage in unethical practices, or cover up a serious problem, you should be and will be fired. (Applause.)
And by the way, if you blow the whistle on higher-ups because you’ve identified a legitimate problem, you shouldn’t be punished, you should be protected. (Applause.)
So my bottom line is this: Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there. And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens. (Applause.)
And we’re in the midst of a new wave of veterans — more than a million servicemembers returning to civilian life. So we have to do more to uphold that sacred trust not just this year or next year, but for decades to come. We’re going to have to stay focused on the five priorities that I outlined last year. And I just want to reiterate them for you just so you know what it is that we’re committing to.
Number one, we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve. And the new funding we just helped — we just passed with the help of Senators Burr and Kay, that helps. But as you know, it’s not enough. Even in these tough fiscal times, I’ve, therefore, proposed another increase in veterans funding for next year. And I’ll continue to resist any effort to exploit the recent problems at the VA to turn veterans health care into a voucher system. We don’t need vouchers. You need VA health care that you have earned and that you can depend on. (Applause.) We need to make the system work.
Second, we need to make sure veterans are actually getting the health care you need when you need it. Reforming the VHA and more doctors and staff is a good step. But with this new wave of veterans, we’ve got to deliver the care our newest veterans need most. And that includes tailored care that treats our women veterans with respect and dignity. (Applause.) It means doing even more to help veterans from all wars who are struggling with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. And we have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans. (Applause.) As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy.
So we’re doing even more — more than ever — more awareness, more outreach, more access to mental health care. So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn’t get the support that they need, that means we haven’t done enough. And we all know we need to do more. Veterans called for it. We heard you — which is why today I’m announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental health care for those American heroes and their families. (Applause.)
So just one example: 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. We’ll improve access to care, with more peer support — veterans counseling veterans — at VA hospitals and clinics. We’re calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that’s on par with the coverage for other medical conditions. And we’re going to make it easier for servicemembers being treated for mental health conditions to continue their care as they transition to the VA, so automatically connecting them with the support they need, making sure they don’t lose access to any medications they may be taking.
And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, 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. We are here for you. And every American needs to know 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. (Applause.)
Our third priority: We have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog. Now, the good news is, since its peak last year, we’ve worked with you to slash the backlog by more than 50 percent. There had been a surge in the backlog in part because of an influx of new veterans; in part because we opened it up for folks who had PTSD, folks with Agent Orange symptoms. And now we’ve had to work that backlog back down. The trend lines are good. But we don’t just want those claims processed fast; we need to make sure they get processed right.
So we’re going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all. And as we do, we’re going to keep working to liberate you from those mountains of paper. We’ve got to move towards a paperless system — electronic health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life, and that could cut down on some of the bureaucratic red tape so that you’re getting the benefits that you’ve earned a little bit faster. (Applause.)
Number four: We need to uphold the dignity and rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans. (Applause.) Again, we’ve got good news to report. Today, I can announce that, working together over the last few years, we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by one-third. (Applause.) And that means on any given night, there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters. But we’re not going to stop until every veteran who has defended America has a home in America. That’s a basic commitment that we have to uphold. (Applause.)
And finally, we need to make sure our troops and veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream. That includes a home of their own. You know, under the law, our servicemembers are entitled to reduced mortgage rates, but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they’re eligible, which means a lot of folks don’t get the low rates they deserve.
So, today, we’re turning that around. We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify servicemembers who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll. In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt. (Applause.)
We’re also going to keep helping our troops transition to civilian life. Because of the work we’ve done together, if you already have a military truck driver’s license, every state now waives the skills test so it’s easier for you to get a commercial driver’s license. (Applause.) And we’re going to keep pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans. If you could do a job in a warzone, if you’re a medic in a warzone, you shouldn’t have to go take nursing 101 to work in a hospital here in the United States. (Applause.) If you can handle million-dollar pieces of equipment in a warzone, that should count for something in getting certified back here at home. If you can do the kinds of jobs so many of you have done in the most extreme circumstances, I’m pretty confident you can do that job right here at home. (Applause.)
To help our troops and veterans pursue their education, we worked with loan servicers to automatically cap interest rates on student loans to our servicemembers at 6 percent. For veterans going back to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we’ll keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families. So far, about 6,000 colleges and universities have pledged to adhere to our principles of excellence, promising to do right by our veterans. And more than a thousand colleges and universities have adopted our “8 Keys” to make sure that they’re truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus. And by the way, every school in America should join them. You should be proud if you’re educating a veteran, and you should be doing right by them. (Applause.)
And we’re going to keep helping our veterans find those private sector jobs worthy of your incredible talents. Our new online Veterans Employment Center is a single one-stop shop connecting veterans and their spouses to more than 1.5 million jobs that are open right now. And we’re joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions with the most opportunities for veterans. And with Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden leading the call, America’s businesses are joining forces to hire or train veterans and spouses — more than half a million so far, and growing.
So veterans’ unemployment is going down, and it’s now actually lower than the national average. It was higher to begin with, and we have been driving it down. But we’ve got more to go, especially for our post-9/11 veterans. So we’re going to keep saying to every business in America, if you want somebody who knows how to get the job done, no matter the mission, hire a veteran. Hire a vet. (Applause.)
So fixing what’s broken at the VA; ensuring the resources you deserve; delivering the health care that you’ve earned; eliminating the backlog; standing up for your rights and dignity; helping you realize the American Dream that you so honorably defended — these are our commitments to you. This is what we’re focused on. This is what we can do together — especially as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home our newest veterans.
There are a lot of them here tonight. We salute Captain Scott Miller of Indiana, a proud Hoosier and a proud Marine. In Afghanistan, he went out on dangerous patrols, traveling to remote villages, meeting with tribal elders, building trust, forging partnerships to push back insurgents. And here at the Legion, he continues to serve by encouraging businesses across America to give back to the veterans who defended our way of life and make our prosperity possible. So thank you, Scott. Where is Scott here today? (Applause.) We are proud of him. There here is.
We salute Master Sergeant Carol Barker of Greensboro, North Carolina. As a first sergeant of her medevac unit, she was responsible for more than a hundred troops, helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when life so often hung in the balance. And here at the Legion, she continues to serve, helping homeless veterans come in off the streets, and begin their lives anew with a roof over their heads. Thank you, Carol. Where’s Carol? (Applause.)
We salute Sergeant Joe Grassi, who grew up just outside New York City. After his hometown was attacked on 9/11, he left his civilian job, he joined the Army. A squad leader in Afghanistan, he spent most of his time on the flight line, in the 120-degree heat, supplying our helicopter crews. And here at the Legion, he continues to serve, helping veterans complete their disability claims, and raising his voice in Washington for a strong national defense, because, he says, “Some things are worth fighting for. America is worth fighting for.” Thank you, Joe. We’re proud of you. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
Scott, Carol, Joe — they’re among the patriots here today who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I would ask all our Post-9/11 Generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation. I ask these men and women to stand because the American people have to know that even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun. And this cannot just be the work of government and veterans groups alone. I want every American to take this commitment seriously. Please stand, Post-9/11 Generation, all of you who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re grateful for you. (Applause.)
This is not just a job of government. It’s not just a job of the veterans’ organizations. Every American needs to join us in taking care of those who’ve taken care of us. Because only 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans benefit from that 1 percent. A hundred percent need to be supporting our troops. A hundred percent need to be supporting our veterans. A hundred percent need to be supporting our military families. (Applause.)
And everybody can do something. Every American. Every business. Every profession. Every school. Every community. Every state. All of us, as one American team. That’s how we will truly honor our veterans. That’s how we will truly say thank you. That’s how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who’ve served in our name.
God bless you. God bless our veterans. God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
12:41 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 26, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 24, 2014
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Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 17, 2014
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 15, 2014
Source: WH, 8-7-14
Ft. Belvoir, Virginia
12:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Fort Belvoir! (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. I think I’m going to take Sergeant Major McGruder on the road. (Laughter.) I’m just going to have him introduce me wherever I go. (Laughter.) He got me excited, and I’m being — I get introduced all the time. So thank you, James, for your incredible service to our country. Give James a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to say a big thanks to America’s new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, who is here. Stand up, Bob. (Applause.) As some of you may know, Bob headed up one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world. But he also was a West Point grad, also a Ranger who served valiantly on behalf of his country. And this a labor of love for him, and he has hit the ground running. He’s heading out to VA hospitals and clinics around the country, starting with Phoenix tomorrow. So thank you, Bob, for accepting this charge and this challenge, and making sure that we’re doing right by our veterans. I know you’re going to do a great job. Really proud of him. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here today, and I especially want to thank those who led the fight to give Bob and the VA more of the resources and flexibility that they need to make sure every veteran has access to the care and benefits that they have earned. Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Richard Burr, Representative Mike Michaud, Representative Jeff Miller — give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) Thank you. That’s for the good work. (Applause.)
And we are all grateful to our outstanding veterans service organizations for all the work that they do on behalf of our veterans and their families. So thank you very much to all the veterans service organizations. Most of all, I want to thank General Buchanan and Sergeant Major Turnbull, and all of you who serve here at Fort Belvoir.
For nearly a century, this base has helped keep America strong and secure. Seventy years ago, troops from here –- the 29th Infantry Division, the Blue and Gray -– were some of the first to storm Omaha Beach. And in recent years, many of you have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. And you’ve risked your lives on multiple tours to defend our nation. And as a country, we have a sacred obligation to serve you as well as you’ve served us -– an obligation that doesn’t end with your tour of duty.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of dedicated public servants at the VA help us honor that commitment. At VA hospitals across America, you’ve got doctors and nurses who are delivering world-class care to America’s veterans. You’ve got millions of veterans and their families who are profoundly grateful for the good work that is done at the VA. And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful, too.
But over the last few months, we’ve discovered some inexcusable misconduct at some VA health care facilities — stories of our veterans denied the care they needed, long wait times being covered up, cooking the books. This is wrong. It was outrageous. And working together, we set out to fix it and do right by our veterans across the board, no matter how long it took.
And we’ve already taken the first steps to change the way the VA does business. We’ve held people accountable for misconduct. Some have already been relieved of their duties, and investigations are ongoing. We’ve reached out to more than 215,000 veterans so far to make sure that we’re getting them off wait lists and into clinics both inside and outside the VA system.
We’re moving ahead with urgent reforms, including stronger management and leadership and oversight. And we’re instituting a critical culture of accountability — rebuilding our leadership team, starting at the top with Secretary McDonald. And one of his first acts is that he’s directed all VA health care facilities to hold town halls to hear directly from the veterans that they serve to make sure that we’re hearing honest assessments about what’s going on.
Now, in a few minutes, we’ll take another step forward when I sign into law the VA reform bill that was passed overwhelmingly, with bipartisan majorities — and that doesn’t happen often in Congress. It’s a good deal. (Laughter and applause.)
This bill covers a lot of ground — from expanding survivor benefits and educational opportunities, to improving care for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and for victims of sexual assault. But today, I want to focus on the ways this bill will help us ensure that veterans have access to the care that they’ve earned.
First of all, this will give the VA more of the resources that it needs. It will help the VA hire more doctors and more nurses and staff more clinics. As a new generation of veterans returns home from war and transitions into civilian life, we have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with that new demand. Keep in mind that I have increased funding for the VA since I came into office by extraordinary amounts. But we also have extraordinary numbers of veterans coming home. And so the demand, even though we’ve increased the VA budget, is still higher than the resources that we’ve got. This bill helps to address that.
Second, for veterans who can’t get timely care through the VA, this bill will help them get the care they need someplace else. And this is particularly important for veterans who are in more remote areas, in rural areas. If you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or if VA doctors can’t see you within a reasonable amount of time, you’ll have the chance to see a doctor outside the VA system.
Now finally, we’re giving the VA Secretary more authority to hold people accountable. We’ve got to give Bob the authority so that he can move quickly to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that the American people demand. If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period. It shouldn’t be that difficult. (Applause.) And if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice, or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. (Applause.) You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.
“To care for him [or her] who shall have borne the battle.” That’s the heart of the VA’s motto. That’s what the bill I’m about to sign will help us achieve. But I want to be clear about something: This will not and cannot be the end of our effort. Implementing this law will take time. It’s going to require focus on the part of all of us. And even as we focus on the urgent reforms we need at the VA right now, particularly around wait lists and the health care system, we can’t lose sight of our long-term goals for our servicemembers and our veterans.
The good news is, we’ve cut the disability claims backlog by more than half. But let’s now eliminate the backlog. Let’s get rid of it. (Applause.) The good news is, we’ve poured major resources into improving mental health care. But now, let’s make sure our veterans actually get the care they need when they need it. The good news is, we’ve helped to get thousands of homeless veterans off the street, made an unprecedented effort to end veterans’ homelessness. We should have zero tolerance for that. But we’ve got to — still more work to do in cities and towns across America to get more veterans into the homes they deserve.
We’ve helped more than a million veterans and their spouses and children go to college through the post-9/11 GI bill. (Applause.) But now, we’ve got to help even more of them earn their educations, and make sure that they’re getting a good bargain in the schools they enroll in.
We’ve rallied companies to hire hundreds of thousands of veterans and their spouses. That’s the good news. With the help of Jill Biden and Michelle Obama — two pretty capable women. (Laughter.) They know what they’re doing, and nobody says no to them, including me. (Laughter.) But now, we’ve got to help more of our highly skilled veterans find careers in this new economy.
So America has to do right by all who serve under our proud flag. And Congress needs to do more, also. I urge the Senate, once again, to finally confirm my nominee for Assistant Secretary for Policy at the VA, Linda Schwartz; my nominee to lead the Board of Veterans Appeals, Constance Tobias; my nominee for CFO, Helen Tierney. Each of them have been waiting for months for a yes-or-no vote — in Constance’s case for more than a year.
They’re ready to serve. They’re ready to get to work. It’s not that hard. It didn’t used to be this hard to just go ahead and get somebody confirmed who is well qualified. Nobody says they’re not. It’s just the Senate doesn’t seem to move very fast. As soon as the Senate gets back in September, they should act to put these outstanding public servants in place. Our veterans don’t have time for politics. They need these public servants on the job right now. (Applause.)
So let me wrap up by saying two months ago, I had the chance to spend some time with some of America’s oldest veterans at Omaha Beach. Some of you may have seen on television the celebration, the commemoration of those incredible days, the 70th anniversary of D-Day. And this is my second visit to democracy’s beachhead. It’s the second time I’ve gone as President. And it’s a place where it’s impossible not to be moved by the courage and the sacrifice of free men and women who volunteer to lay down their lives for people they’ve never met, ideals that they can’t live without. That’s why they’re willing to do these things.
And some of these folks that you met, they were 18 at the time. Some of them were lying about their age. They were 16, landing either at the beach or sometimes behind the lines. The casualty rates were unbelievable. Being there brought back memories of my own grandfather, who marched in Patton’s Army, and then came home. And like so many veterans of his generation, they went to school and got married and raised families. And he eventually helped to raise me.
And on that visit to Normandy, I brought some of today’s servicemembers with me because I wanted to introduce them to the veterans of D-Day and to show the veterans of D-Day that their legacy is in good hands, that there’s a direct line between the sacrifices then and the sacrifices that folks have made in remote places today. Because in more than a decade of war, today’s men and women in uniform — all of you — you’ve met every mission we’ve asked of you.
Today, our troops continue to serve and risk their lives in Afghanistan. It continues to be a difficult and dangerous mission, as we were tragically reminded again this week in the attack that injured a number of our coalition troops and took the life of a dedicated American soldier, Major General Harold Greene. Our prayers are with the Greene family, as they are with all the Gold Star families and those who have sacrificed so much for our nation.
Four months from now, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be complete. Our longest war will come to an honorable end. In the years to come, many from this generation will step out of uniform, and their legacy will be secure. But whether or not this country properly repays their heroism, properly repays their patriotism, their service and their sacrifice, that’s in our hands.
I’m committed to seeing that we fulfill that commitment. Because the men and women of this generation, this 9/11 Generation of servicemembers, are the leaders we need for our time — as community leaders and business leaders, I hope maybe some leaders in our politics, as well.
From the Greatest Generation to the 9/11 Generation, America’s heroes have answered the call to serve. I have no greater honor than serving as your President and Commander-in-Chief. And I have no greater privilege than the chance to help make sure that our country keeps the promises that we’ve made to everybody who signs up to serve. And as long as I hold this office, we’re going to spend each and every day working to do right by you and your families. I’m grateful to you.
God bless you. God bless America. With that, I am going to sign this bill. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)
12:18 P.M. EDT
Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 7, 2014