CHARLOTTE - President Barack Obama spoke to thousands of veterans Tuesday at the American Legion Convention.
Obama’s speech comes after well-publicized problems with the VA hospitals.
Obama declared that the nation owes veterans for their service and that the lengthy wait times and attempts to hide scheduling flaws were "outrageous and inexcusable."
"We are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there," Obama said. "And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens."
Obama promised "a new culture of accountability" under new Secretary Bob McDonald.
Veterans services director talks about veterans in Mecklenburg County
One of the biggest problems Mecklenburg County is facing is finding jobs for veterans, said Mecklenburg County Veterans’ Services Director Jim Grosser.
He said it’s only intensified with a veterans population that increased by 3,000 last year.
“Unfortunately, they also have some baggage they are carrying from their service so they need support services, too,” said Grosser.
Mecklenburg County is already benefitting from stronger commitments to veterans' care. A new six-story health care center is being built off West Tyvola Road and is expected to be completed in early 2016.
Grosser said Mecklenburg County also continues to exceed its goals on housing homeless veterans.
“I think the thing that is most encouraging to us, is he is putting money and actions behind those points,” Grosser commented on the President’s plan.
Moving beyond the steps included in the law, Obama planned to take executive actions that:
- Automatically enroll military personnel who are receiving care for mental health conditions and are leaving the service in a program that transfers them to a new care team in the VA.
- Undertake a study designed to detect whether people show signs of being vulnerable to suicide or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
- Spends $34.4 million in a VA suicide prevention study and about $80 million on a program to treat diseases, including post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Obama also announced a partnership with lenders such as Wells Fargo Bank, CitiMortgage, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing and Quicken Loans to make it easier for active-duty service members to obtain mortgage interest rate reductions.
Police were in place uptown by 9 a.m. Tuesday, using no less than a bus, a truck and several patrol cars to block off streets around the convention center in preparation for the president's arrival.
The real mess was developing on the highways leading into uptown. None worse, perhaps, than on Interstate 77, where northbound traffic locked down near the Billy Graham Parkway.
Some drivers actually turned around and bailed out of the mess, by weaving their way backwards through the virtual parking lot.
Senator Kay Hagan spoke on Tuesday, as well as Senator Richard Burr. Hagan is up for re-election this fall.
We will have continuing coverage of the president’s visit on Eyewitness News at 5 and 6 p.m.
WATCH Obama's speech:
- Part 1: Obama speaks to American Legion Convention
- Part 2: Obama speaks to American Legion Convention
- Part 3: Obama speaks to American Legion Convention