WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) — The White House will acknowledge Veterans Day on Wednesday by announcing new administration initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for U.S. servicemen and women.
White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation Kristie Canegallo on Tuesday told reporters the Obamaadministration places a high priority on caring for the nation’s veterans — both during their service and after they leave the armed forces.
The officials announced a variety of White House efforts they say reflects the president’s commitment to making veterans’ civilian lives as beneficial and important as their military existence.
The initiative focuses on various aspects of health care, medicine, homelessness, economic opportunity and resources — all of which, the White House said, have improved under Obama’s leadership.
The officials said Obama responded swiftly to the controversy that emerged at the Veterans Health Administration 18 months ago, when it was revealed that numerous veterans had died while awaiting medical care at VA hospitals.
The Obama administration, they said, has reduced the crisis-level backlog by about 90 percent and has submitted additional reforms to Congress to focus on streamlining rules and authorizations, minimizing delays, providing consistent, high-quality care, and spend up reimbursements.
Obama is calling on Congress to reform what the administration calls a broken appeals process for VA claims that often “leaves veterans hanging” for years. The VA and Veteran Service Organizations have created a pilot program — Fully Developed Appeals — to address this problem.
Veterans’ homelessness is another priority for the White House. Tens of thousands of fewer vets are on streets nationwide, Muñoz said, as a result of administration efforts and state and local governments are pushing to completely end veteran homelessness in the near future.
The state of Virginia and cities of Las Vegas and Syracuse and Schenectady, N.Y., have announced they have ended veteran homelessness within their borders. A study to be released next week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development says overall veteran homelessness has decreased 36 percent between 2010 and January 2015.
In education, the administration announced plans to offering in-state tuition to recent veterans in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. There will also be enhanced oversight by the Federal Trade Commission to make sure sure schools don’t engage in misleading advertising aimed at veterans.
Administration officials said recent efforts have aided in getting veterans educated and put to work — thanks to nearly $60 billion dollars that has been spent to reduce the veteran unemployment rate to below 4 percent nationwide.
An agreement between the Veterans Affairs Department and the Federal Trade Commission and offering in-state tuition rates to veterans at colleges in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are two more examples, the officials said, of the administration’s commitment to members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Muñoz said the White House’s efforts are designed to ensure that “veterans have the assistance they need to grow our economy, grow their careers and achieve american dream.”