Obama Pledges More Support for Returning Combat Veterans
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 President Barack Obama promised during an online town hall meeting today to ensure returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan receive the benefits and support they deserve.
“When our veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan -- and they have performed brilliantly; they have done everything that's been asked of them, regardless of what your views are on these wars -- they have earned these benefits that, all too often, we fail to give them,” the president told a questioner during a session otherwise dominated by economic issues.
Obama said his Department of Veterans Affairs budget proposal -- with the biggest funding increase in 30 years – will help provide more services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
It also will help clear up the backlog that Obama said too many veterans experience before they receive the benefits to which they’re entitled.
The president called the high homeless rate for veterans -- multiple times that of nonveterans --“inexcusable.” “We’re going to make sure that homeless veterans are receiving housing and services,” he said.
But Obama emphasized that “government alone can’t do it” in supporting the country’s veterans.
“All of us, individually, are going to have roles,” he said. “That’s going to be critical.” For example, business owners can’t discriminate against veterans when they hire. Communities, neighborhoods and churches need to reach out to veterans, and to celebrate when they return home.
“I think we've done a much better job during these wars than we did during Vietnam, where in many cases our treatment of veterans was inexcusable,” Obama said. “But we can always do more. Government is going to … do its role, and then we’ve got to make sure that our communities do their role as well.”
Obama reflected on his visit to Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, where he met with about 35 of the 98 living Medal of Honor recipients during a Medal of Honor Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
“And it just reminds you that we wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for the sacrifices of earlier veterans,” he said. “We would not enjoy the same safety and security and liberty that we do.”