President Obama will note the progress his administration has made to help veterans in a speech at the Disabled American Veterans’ National Conference in Atlanta—from tackling homelessness to improving access to health care.
Obama will deliver remarks at the 95th DAV convention on Monday where he’ll tout his commitment to veterans issues. Since 2010, he’ll announce, the Obama administration has worked with state and local governments to cut veteran homelessness almost in half. Ending veteran homelessness was a key component of the Obama administration’s Opening Doors initiative, which sought to tackle the issue by 2015.
In 2016, less than 40,000 veterans were counted among the nation’s homeless, down from the 47,725 homeless vets the Department of Housing and Urban Development counted in January 2015. Since 2010, the administration says, the homeless veteran population has fallen by 47%; the population of veterans living on the streets has declined by 56% in that same amount of time.
President Obama has faced harsh criticism for his administration’s handling of veterans issues, particularly those issues involving the Department of Veterans Affairs. A 2014 CNN investigation found that dozens of veterans had died waiting to receive care at veteran health facilities. An internal audit found widespread wait-time problems at VA health facilities paired with the falsification of records by officials.
On Monday, Obama will tout progress made in regard to veterans’ health, including a “historic” number of veterans—58 million—who have been served at VA facilities over the past year. According to the administration,97% of veterans complete their appointments within 30 days of the date they request and that 90% of veterans are “either satisfied or completely satisfied with the timeliness of their care.”
A Government Accountability Office report from April 2016, however, found that newly enrolled veterans face waits ranging from 22 to 71 days for primary care; many are not able to access care because of poor scheduling practices.
The White House has said there’s still a lot of work to be done to increase veterans’ access to care and the president will touch on their continued efforts in his Monday address, including expanding telemedicine, increasing clinical hours, and making more space available for care inside of VA facilities. The president’s 2017 budget request included $75 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, money he’d hope would support his efforts to improve health care and curb homelessness
Homelessness and healthcare are among the five issues the president will outline in his Monday afternoon speech, which will also touch on economic opportunities his administration has fought to secure for vets. Veteran unemployment is down to 4.2% in 2016 from 9.9% in 2011, according to the administration, and the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 4.4%. First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative is leading the charge to urge businesses to hire vets.
The president’s remarks come amid a campaign season that’s put veterans issues at the forefront. Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has put forward a plan to overhaul the VA by expanding veterans’ access to private care and making it easier to fire under-performing executives. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has also proposed reforms including modernizing the VA system and putting veterans first within it.