President Obama’s speech on Monday at the DAV could have been one for the history books – a landmark address for veterans spelling out how our country can step up to support the millions of us returning from the current conflicts. Instead, the President used the backdrop of a veterans convention to score points on campaign promises and focus the nation’s attention on the war in Iraq, instead of on the warriors coming home.
The hardly new announcement that the US is drawing down in Iraq captured media headlines all day. The press ran with every possible variation of this theme, but neglected to report on an equally important component of the speech - and the war: the veterans.
If you watched the whole speech, you saw that the drawdown update on Iraq was just one of two big themes – the other being what the Obama Administration is doing for veterans. And even though the President said many of the right things, the hard results were lacking. Lip service doesn’t go far with military folks. We expect more than rhetoric about respect and promises; we expect outcomes.
In the last two years, the Obama Administration has made solid progress for veterans through advanced appropriations, the New GI Bill, and improved PTSD rules. But much of that is old news. And so far during President’s Obama’s time in office, veteran unemployment has risen, the VA disability backlog remains unacceptably high and suicide rates continue to skyrocket. The veterans community hoped that the President would deliver concrete solutions to these acute challenges in this speech and issue a call to action. But what we got instead, was mostly just talk.
It’s time for the President to look ahead and put the pedal down to deliver real results in Washington before the fall recess.
We know what can be done when America really works together. And we know President Obama, working with Congress, the VA and the veterans organizations, can put action behind these promises. It’s time for him to help deliver the historic results we deserve. Then, he’ll really have something to say to the veterans community.
Crossposted at www.IAVA.org