President Obama on Tuesday will roll out new executive actions to strengthen veterans’ health care, using a speech at the American Legion National Convention to trumpet a reduction in the disability claims backlog at government hospitals.
The president will announce executive initiatives that automatically enroll those receiving mental health services through the Defense Department into similar Department of Veterans Affairs programs, expand mental health peer support for veterans being treated in primary care settings and invest nearly $115 million in suicide prevention and treatment of diseases like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Obama’s remarks to the nation’s largest veterans organization will also serve as a status report on administrative progress in the wake of a scathing internal audit of deadly lapses in treatment at VA hospitals.
The president will announce that the disability claims backlog has been reduced by more than 50 percent since March 2013 and the number of homeless veterans has dropped by one-third over the past four years.
Still, the administration is scrambling to correct shortcomings that resulted in the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and served as perhaps the highest-profile example of government ineptitude under Obama's watch.
The Obama administration has contacted 250,000 veterans in an attempt to get them off wait lists, and the president has vowed to fire those most responsible for the wide-ranging scandal. Still, that process has moved far too slowly for many veterans.
Obama also will highlight improvements in records sharing between the Defense Department and VA and announce partnerships with banks making it easier for active-duty service members to reduce their monthly mortgage payments.
The president is scheduled to address the American Legion at noon on Tuesday.