At The Washington Post, Dana Milbank writes:
It doesn’t inspire great confidence that President Obama, on the day he finally decided to comment about excessive wait times for veterans’ medical appointments, showed up late to read his statement.
The White House briefing room is only about 100 feet from the Oval Office, but Obama arrived 13 minutes after the scheduled time for his remarks, the first since the day the scandal broke late last month with a report that 40 veterans had died in Phoenix while waiting to see doctors.Remarks in Charleston, West Virginia, May 12, 2008:
At the same time, we must never forget that honoring this service and upholding these ideals requires more than saluting our veterans as they march by on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It requires marching with them for the care and benefits they have earned It requires standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our veterans and their families after the guns fall silent and the cameras are turned off. At a time when we're facing the largest homecoming since the Second World War, the true test of our patriotism is whether we will serve our returning heroes as well as they've served us.
We know that over the last eight years, we've already fallen short of meeting this test. We all learned about the deplorable conditions that were discovered at places like Fort Bragg and Walter Reed. We've all walked by a veteran whose home is now a cardboard box on a street corner in the richest nation on Earth. We've all heard about what it's like to navigate the broken bureaucracy of the VA - the impossibly long lines, or the repeated calls for help that get you nothing more than an answering machine. Just a few weeks ago, an 89-year-old World War II veteran from South Carolina told his family, "No matter what I apply for at the VA, they turn me down." The next day, he walked outside of an Outpatient Clinic in Greenville and took his own life.
How can we let this happen? How is that acceptable in the United States of America? The answer is, it's not. It's an outrage. And it's a betrayal - a betrayal - of the ideals that we ask our troops to risk their lives for.
U.S. Senator Barack Obama was joined by Congressman Chet Edwards (TX-17) in Houston this morning for a town hall meeting with area veterans. Obama discussed his track record of fighting for veterans in the U.S. Senate and pledged that, as President, he will ensure that veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned.
"America enters into a sacred trust with every single person who puts on the uniform," Obama said. "That trust is simple: America will be there for you, just as you have been there for America. Keeping that trust must always be a core American value, and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because our commitment to our servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end."
Obama noted that, in recent years, Washington has failed to uphold that sacred trust, saying the current administration has stood by as military hospitals lapse into deplorable conditions. Obama also criticized the President's recently released budget that leaves out $400 million in funding for military medical facilities.
"It's time to build a truly 21st century VA," Obama said. "It's also time to build more Vet Centers, VA facilities and outpatient clinics. If you live down in south Texas, you shouldn't have to drive for hours to the VA hospital in San Antonio. When I am Commander-in-Chief, I will ask myself every single day whether I am serving you as well as you have served America. I will have no greater calling than standing by those who have answered our country's call."
During a town hall meeting in Mason City, U.S. Senator Barack Obama today outlined his plan to ensure that the United States keeps its sacred trust with our nation's veterans when they return home from war. Obama's comments came in the wake of reports the Veterans Administration (VA) has been lagging in making needed improvements it promised after deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center became public.
"It's not enough to lay a wreath on Memorial Day, or to make a speech on Veteran's Day," Obama said. "When a veteran is denied health care, we are all dishonored. When 400,000 veterans are stuck on a waiting list for claims, we need a new sense of urgency in this country. And when we've got youngveterans of a misguided war in Iraq sleeping on the streets of our cities and towns, we need a change in Washington."