U.S. Army Fort Hood
Fort Hood, Texas
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here. Thank you for taking some time. It’s an honor to be here at this historic base, Fort Hood. We just came from a live fire drill. Saw 1st Cav in action; the troopers were incredibly impressive.
But the opportunity to be with all of you, to have the chance to learn more about how we can better serve those who have served is a great privilege to me as well.
I want to thank General Kamper for the hospitality here today. And I also want to recognize two great members of Congress who have been champions for our veterans. And for some reason, they got kicked to the curb; I think you guys should pull up to — sit here at the end of the table here, Judge, please. Join me in welcoming Congressman John Carter and Congressman Roger Williams. You can give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
These members of Congress have been great champions of our armed forces, great champions for our veterans, and I’m so pleased that they made time to be here at Fort Hood today as we talk about veterans’ transition.
I have to tell you, I couldn’t be more proud to serve alongside a President who cares so deeply about the men and women of our armed forces, their families, and those who serve. I’m proud to report to all of you — as I’ll reflect in a few minutes with a larger group — that since the beginning of this administration, President Trump has actually signed the largest increases in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including the largest pay raise for our military in more than 10 years.
But we’ve put just as much energy on making sure that those who have served in uniform have access to the resources and benefits that you earned in the uniform of the United States.
I want to assure you, the President and the Vice President — we don’t see veteran’s benefits as entitlements, we see them as earned benefits that are a reflection of the gratitude of the American people. And that’s why, from early in this administration, we have been working to expand opportunities for veterans.
And I’m anxious to learn more about the Soldier for Life Transition Program here and the difference that it’s making at Fort Hood. And, Mark, I’m grateful for your efforts and your leadership in that regard.
MR. PHILLIPS: Thank you, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But, we’re also very proud of the fact that this President has stepped forward. We’ve expanded the GI Bill. We erased student loan debt for 25,000 veterans. And early in this administration, President Trump signed Veterans Choice, available now for all veterans. And wait times now for veterans’ healthcare are now essentially equal to the private sector. And we’ve already dismissed more than 8,000 employees of the VA that were not providing the healthcare and quality of care that the American people would expect and demand for the men and women who have served in the uniform of this country.
So, we’re absolutely committed to keeping our promises to our veterans. It is a — it is simply a reflection of the gratitude the American people feel to all of you and all that you represent.
And so, with that, let me — let me recognize the Deputy Secretary of the VA, who is a great man and a former Marine and a tenacious advocate for veterans. You could welcome Deputy Secretary James Byrne. Good to see you, James. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY BYRNE: Thank you, sir.