It was indeed heartening to hear President Barack Obama promise to continue his administration’s efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs during a speech last week at the American Legion’s national convention in Charlotte.
The president pledged to continue to build on his initiatives to fix federal health care services for veterans, which have been plagued by unacceptable delays in providing health care to former military personnel while VA officials sought to cover up the extent of the problems.
Earlier this month, Obama signed a $16.3 billion law aimed at easing the long waits that tens of thousands of military veterans had endured to get medical care.
Declaring that the lengthy wait times and attempts to hide scheduling flaws were “outrageous and inexcusable,” Obama said that the nation must do more to uphold its “sacred trust” to the men and women who have served in the armed forces.
Obama brought with him his new Veterans Affairs secretary, Robert McDonald, who Obama said McDonald is “instituting a new culture of accountability.”
The president announced a slew of executive actions he is instituting aimed at helping increase access to mental health care for veterans as well as active-duty military members and their families.
He also pledged to do more to fight homelessness among veterans and offer more assistance to help veterans find jobs, obtain low-interest mortgages and improve their access to higher education.
The first steps already taken toward reform of the VA may been been small, but they have been solid. And while the president’s promises are indeed laudable, they must be followed with substantial action. The executive orders announced last week in Charlotte must be implemented and carried out with efficiency and effectiveness.
Americans owe an immeasurable debt to our active-duty military personnel and veterans, and it is our responsibility to see that the federal government carries through on the president’s promises.