"For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren't nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. But we know that for too long, we've fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't receive the support that they've earned. Too many who once wore our nation's uniform now sleep in our nation's streets."
A 21st Century VA
The President’s message to those who serve is this: when you come home to America, America will be there for you. This Administration is committed to ensuring that DoD and VA coordinate to provide a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life and help fix the benefit bureaucracy. This Administration has worked towards modernizing the way health care is delivered and benefits are administered for our nation's veterans.
On August 31, 2012 President Obama signed an Executive Order that strengthens suicide prevention efforts across the Force and in the veteran community and improves access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families members.
First Lady Michelle Obama announced on August 22, 2012 that more than 2,000 American companies had answered President Obama's challenge and had hired or trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses in the past year through Joining Forces. This effort, combined with policies and legislation put in place by the President, have resulted in a 20 percent decrease in veteran unemployment compared to the same time last year.
President Obama signed the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act on July 12, 2012. This legislation will make it easier for veterans to put their skills to work and complements the new partnership launched by the Obama Administration that will make it easier for manufacturing companies to hire thousands of returning servicemembers who have the skills our country needs.
On April 11, 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced a commitment from more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families.
As part of President Obama's broader plan to help millions of Americans refinance and save thousands of dollars a year, support the communities hardest-hit by the housing crisis, and help families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes, on March 6, 2012 he announced new measures major mortgage servicers will be taking to provide significant relief to thousands of servicemembers and veterans.
President Obama signed the "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" into law on November 21, 2011. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides businesses that hire unemployed veterans a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.
On November 7, 2011 President Obama introduced new resources created to help veterans translate their military skills for the civilian workforce. These online tools were designed to aid their search for jobs and make it easier to connect our veterans with companies that want to hire them:
- Veteran Gold Card Post-9/11 veterans can download the Veteran Gold Card, which entitles them to enhanced services including six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling, at the roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers located across the country. This could help serve the more than 200,000 unemployed Post-9/11 veterans. The President directed the Department of Labor to launch this initiative in his August 5, 2011 speech at the Navy Yard.
- My Next Move for Veterans: The Department of Labor will launch My Next Move for Veterans, a new online resource that allows veterans to enter their military occupation code and discover civilian occupations for which they are well qualified. The site will also include information about salaries, apprenticeships, and other related education and training programs.
- Creating a Veterans Job Bank: The Veterans Job Bank, at National Resource Directory, is an easy to use tool to help veterans find job postings from companies looking to hire them. It already searches over 500,000 job postings and is growing. In a few easy steps, companies can make sure the job postings on their own websites are part of this Veterans Job Bank.
On August 5, 2011 President Obama announced new commitments to servicemembers and veterans that will provide a comprehensive plan to lower veteran unemployment and ensure that servicemembers leave the military career-ready through hiring tax credits, private sector commitments, and reforms that improve the way we prepare, train, and educate servicemembers for life after the military. The commitment to America's veterans includes:
- Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits: A new Returning Heroes Tax Credit for firms that hire unemployed veterans (maximum credit of $2,400 for every short-term unemployed hire and $4,800 for every long-term unemployed hire) and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit which will increase the existing tax credit for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed long-term (maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran) and continue the existing credit for all other veterans with a service-connected disability (maximum credit of $4,800).
- A Challenge to the Private Sector to Hire or Train 100,000 Unemployed Veterans or Their Spouses by the End of 2013: The President will challenge businesses to commit to hire or provide training to unemployed veterans or their spouses. Joining Forces will lead this work with businesses and industry.
- Presidential Call for a Career-Ready Military: The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, working closely with other agencies and the President’s economic and domestic policy teams, will lead a new task force to develop reforms to ensure that every member of the service receives the training, education, and credentials they need to transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education. These reforms will include the design of a “reverse bootcamp,” which will extend the transition period to give service members more counseling and guidance and leave them career-ready.
- Transition to the Private Sector: The Department of Labor will establish a new initiative to deliver an enhanced career development and job search service package to transitioning veterans at their local One-Stop Career Centers. The Office of Personnel Management will create a “Best Practices” Manual for the private sector to help businesses identify and hire veterans.
- Expand Ground Forces to Meet Military Needs and Improve Quality of Life: Increasing end strength in the Army and Marine Corps will help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments, reduce the strain on military families, and help put an end to stop loss. We also plan to halt end strength reductions in the Air Force and Navy.
Lighten Burdens on Our Brave Troops and Their Families: Those in uniform are not the only ones who serve; military families are a top priority for this Administration. The President has announced plans to raise military pay and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched the Joining Forces initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.
The Recovery Act provided the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with more than $1.4 billion to improve services to America’s Veterans
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) enabled the VA to improve medical facilities and national cemeteries, provided grants to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities, and to modify or alter existing facilities to care for Veterans.
- VA dedicated ARRA funds to hire and train 1,500 temporary claims processors to speed benefits delivery to Veterans and pursue needed information technology initiatives for improved benefits and services. Funds were also used to oversee and audit programs, grants, and projects funded under ARRA.
- As part of the President’s Recovery plan, VA made one-time payments of $250 to eligible Veterans and survivors to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn.
- The President announced the Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Initiative. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have worked together to define and build a system that will ultimately contain administrative and medical information from the day an individual enters military service throughout their military career, and into the Veteran phase of life.
With Secretary Shinseki, the President will make sure the VA provides veterans the best care possible. This means improved care for poly-trauma, vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women's health.
Because the nightmares of war don't always end when our loved ones return home, this Administration will work to meet the mental health needs of our veterans. Untold thousands of servicemen and women and veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other serious psychological injury. This Administration is determined to address the challenges of caring for those affected by PTSD when they return home.
Because thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury, one of the signature injuries of these wars, this Administration will continue to improve services for cognitive injuries and ensure our veterans receive the on-going care they need. and the President supports advance appropriations for the VA budget so that healthcare for veterans is not hindered by budget delays.
We all share the shame of well over one hundred thousand veterans going homeless on any given night. This Administration has worked on pilot programs with not-for-profit organizations to make sure that veterans at risk of losing their homes have a roof over their heads.
Finally, this Administration recognizes that our veterans deserve something more -- an equal chance to reach for the very dream they defend. This Administration is committed to providing the resources to effectively implement the Post-9/11 GI Bill – providing every returning service member with a real chance to afford a college education.