A 21st Century Department of Veterans Affairs

ThePresidentpaidtributetothisdepartment,whichwasformedinitsfirstincarnationover70yearsagounderPresidentHerbertHoover,andtodaystandsasthesecond-largestofthe15Cabinetdepartments,bypointingtotheoriginalvisionofAbrahamLincoln"tocareforhimwhoshallhavebornethebattle,andforhiswidowandhisorphan."
Inrecallinghisgrandfather'sserviceinPatton'sarmy,PresidentObamaexpressedhisprofoundgratitudetoournation'sservicemembersonbehalfoftheentirenation:
AndIthinkaboutmygrandfatherwheneverIhavetheprivilegeofmeetingtheyoungmenandwomenwhoserveinourmilitarytoday.Theyareourbestandbrightest,andthey'reourbravest--enlistinginatimeofwar;enduringtouraftertourofduty;servingwithhonorunderthemostdifficultcircumstances;andmakingsacrificesthatmanyofuscannotbegintoimagine.Thesamecanbesaidoftheirfamilies.Asmywife,Michelle,hasseenfirsthandduringvisitstomilitarybasesacrossthiscountry,wedon'tjustdeployourtroopsinatimeofwar--wedeploytheirfamilies,too.
ThePresidentalsoexpressedfullsupportofSecretaryofVeteransAffairs,EricShinseki,whoisoneofournation'sfinestveterans--havingservedalonganddistinguishedcareerintheU.S.Army.UndertheleadershipofSecretaryShinsekitheDepartmentofVeteransAffairswillbetransformedforthe21stcentury.Overthenextfiveyears,thebudgetfortheDepartmentofVeteransAffairswillincreasebyover$25billion(pdf).ThesefundswillbeusedtoexpandtheVAhealthcareprogramsothatincanserveanadditional500,000veteransby2013;toimplementaGIBillforthe21stcentury;toprovidebetterhealthcare;andtodramaticallyimproveservicesrelatedtomentalhealthandinjurieslikePost-TraumaticStressDisorderandTraumaticBrainInjury.Thefundswillalsobeusedfortechnologythatwilleasethetransitionfromactivedutytohomeforournation'sservicemembers.FortheentireAdministration,the20thanniversaryoftheDepartmentofVeteransAffairsisareminderofourdebtofhonortothemenofwomenwhohavefoughttodefendourfreedomandforallinvolveditisanhonortoundergotheworkoftransformingtheDepartmentforthe21stcentury.


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