|[January 29, 2014]
Legion Hoped For More From Obama's Address
WASHINGTON --(Business Wire)--
President Barack Obama, in his fifth State of the Union address on Jan.
29, pledged to cut further the disability claims backlog, improve access
to health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the
Department of Defense (DoD) -- especially mental health care -- and
continue to help veterans get jobs.
"The American Legion certainly appreciates President's Obama great
concern for our military families," said Daniel M. Dellinger, the
Legion's national commander. "We know he wants to do right by our men
and women who have worn the uniform and defended America. The Legion
will do everything it can to support his efforts to reduce the claims
backlog, strengthen medical services at VA and DoD, and get more of our
veterans back into the civilian workforce."
The president pledged to "keep slashing that backlog so our veterans
receive the benefits they've earned," and ensure that "our wounded
warriors receive the health care -- including the mental-health care --
that they need."
Mental-health care is an abiding concern of the Legion, which
established a committee to study alternative treatments for traumatic
brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Last
September, the committee issued a report on its findings,
"The War Within," which recommends that VA and DoD adopt several
effective treatments that are currently not used in any standardized way.
The Legion has shared its TBI/PTSD report with the White House, members
of Congress, and VA's senior leadership.
Additionally, The American Legion has been playing a key role in
reducing the claims backlog, promoting VA's Fully
Developed Claims initiative among its service officers at VA
regional offices nationwide. This program enables claims to move through
the VA system much faster, because they are more fully documented
up-front than traditional claims.
Obama also addressed veterans unemployment, saying "We'll keep working
to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs
here at home." The American Legion has been doing its part by
co-sponsoring, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 200 career
fairs per year for veterans nationwide (known as the "Hiring Our Heroes"
In addition to co-sponsoring career fairs, The
American Legion has been working with DoD and the Department of
Transportation to make private-sector licensing and credentialing easier
for veterans. It has helped 35 state legislatures to pass credentialing
laws that assist transitioning veterans with employment, and helped with
the passage of 49 specific state credentialing laws for commercial
drivers' licenses, that provide waivers and recognize military training
The Legion helped to write parts of the Troop
Talent Act, provisions of which were included in the passage of the
National Defense Authorization Act.
Yet the president failed to mention the looming cuts to pensions for
military retirees 62 and younger: their benefits will be reduced by one
percent per year for a full decade. The American Legion has protested
those cuts since they were announced, and continues to urge Congress to
"The American Legion is disappointed that President Obama did not show
more leadership in dealing with the COLA issue," Dellinger said. "He
promised us, back in August 2011 at our national convention, that he
would not balance the federal budget on the backs of America's veterans.
But that is exactly what he is allowing Congress to do."
Obama said the mission in Afghanistan will be completed by the end of
2014, "and America's longest war will finally be over." When he took
office, 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; since
then, U.S. troops have left Iraq and about 35,000 remain in Afghanistan.
Dellinger said that, despite the troops draw-down, "our military's
operational tempo is increasing while its strength is decreasing,
because of force reductions being made as a result of sequestration.
Although Congress has recently provided $31 billion in military funding
relief over the next two years, military readiness, research and
development, and compensation continue to be eroded. Sequestration is
not good for national security."
A high resolution photo of Nat. Cmdr. Dellinger is available at www.legion.org.
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