Today President Obama helped mark the 20th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Cabinet-level agency with remarks in Washington, DC.
The President paid tribute to this department, which was formed in its first incarnation over 70 years ago under President Herbert Hoover, and today stands as the second-largest of the 15 Cabinet departments, by pointing to the original vision of Abraham Lincoln "to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan."
In recalling his grandfather's service in Patton's army, President Obama expressed his profound gratitude to our nation's service members on behalf of the entire nation:
And I think about my grandfather whenever I have the privilege of meeting the young men and women who serve in our military today. They are our best and brightest, and they're our bravest -- enlisting in a time of war; enduring tour after tour of duty; serving with honor under the most difficult circumstances; and making sacrifices that many of us cannot begin to imagine. The same can be said of their families. As my wife, Michelle, has seen firsthand during visits to military bases across this country, we don't just deploy our troops in a time of war -- we deploy their families, too.
The President also expressed full support of Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, who is one of our nation's finest veterans -- having served a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Army. Under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki the Department of Veterans Affairs will be transformed for the 21st century.
Over the next five years, the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs will increase by over $25 billion (pdf). These funds will be used to expand the VA health care program so that in can serve an additional 500,000 veterans by 2013; to implement a GI Bill for the 21st century; to provide better health care; and to dramatically improve services related to mental health and injuries like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. The funds will also be used for technology that will ease the transition from active duty to home for our nation's service members.
For the entire Administration, the 20th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs is a reminder of our debt of honor to the men of women who have fought to defend our freedom and for all involved it is an honor to undergo the work of transforming the Department for the 21st century.