Investing in the Veterans Who Have Protected Us

Today is Veterans Day when we affirm our obligation to honor and serve our nation’s veterans.

“Obligation” is a strong word, implying an unbreakable, even sacred covenant. It’s the right word to use when talking about what we owe to those who have served in our military. Upon entering the armed forces, these men and women swore their own obligation to support and defend this great country, no matter the personal cost.

So today on Veterans Day, we pause as a nation to recognize those sacrifices, and pledge to attend fully to those who have borne them.

This is a responsibility that President Obama has taken extremely seriously. Through a time of acute fiscal pressure, President Obama fought for and increased the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by a full 40 percent over the last four years.

The results of this commitment are already visible and significant. Our veteran-care system faces large and continuing increases in demand due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. To meet the demands arising from the 800,000 new veterans who have enrolled in VA health care since 2009, we added new facilities nationwide, from community outpatient clinics to the first new VA hospital in 17 years – with three more hospitals under construction.

To contend with the crisis of suicide and post-traumatic stress among veterans, VA hired 3,500 new mental-health professionals since 2009. To ensure there is always a voice to help those in need, earlier this year, President Obama signed an executive order directing VA to increase its 24 hour crisis phone-line (1-800-273-8255) capacity by 50 percent before the year is out.

Another focus of this administration has been targeting veterans’ homelessness. Between January 2010 and January 2011, veteran homeless dropped 12 percent across the country. But despite these promising developments, we will not rest. Secretary Shinseki’s aim is not to reduce, but to eliminate veteran homelessness altogether by 2015.

We are proud of the progress we are making on these fronts, but we must do more, particularly when it comes to the processing of benefits. We processed 4 million claims – but received 4.7 million – during the last four years. We are committed to addressing this problem. We are fielding a new automated system to handle benefits more swiftly and accurately. We will deploy this technology fully by the end of 2013, with an aim toward ending the backlog in 2015.

It’s possible to compare such expenditures to the payment of a debt – namely, a moral obligation we all owe to those who have worn the nation’s uniform. But there’s another financial metaphor that can help explain our commitment to veterans’ programs, and that’s the metaphor of return on investment.

The same investment logic has informed many of this administration’s programs and policies. VA programs invest in veterans – reducing poverty, increasing productivity, improving health, and vastly expand future possibilities – helping our veterans become stronger.

The post-World War II GI Bill is estimated to have returned seven dollars for every dollar paid. Since its inception in August 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has invested in 773,000 veterans, providing educational benefits to them and their families.

In addition, the array of new programs focusing on providing job opportunities for veterans – including the Joining Forces campaign, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, help harness the talent, experience, and character of our veteran population. That community is an extraordinary national resource and, like the post-World War II generation of veterans, is a formidable engine of future economic growth.

Such investments in our veterans have tended to produce excellent returns. Today on Veterans Day, let’s not rest. Let us renew this sound strategy for our national well-being – a partial payment on our obligation to care for those who have given so much.

W. Scott Gould is the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and a United States Navy veteran.

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8 Comments to “Investing in the Veterans Who Have Protected Us”

  1. R Dixon says:

    The best way to honor those who have served and our families is to leave our benefits alone. Every year we are batting our own policy and law makers to maintain our benefits.

    The latest challenge is that we may have to live within 40 miles of a Military Treatment Facility to maintain our health insurance as retires and family members to include our special needs family members.

    Respectfully,

    R. Dixon
    Disabled American Veteran

  2. I am a ex-Marine and use Viera, Florida VA, and it’s the best medical care I have ever incondered. Excellent and Friendly. Thank you AMERICA, and The USMC !

  3. Will there be any increases in desability pay this year?

  4. Roy Cooper says:

    I would like to know how to get a copy of my military records i have requested them .3 time and have never received any kind of reply. I filledout forms that you get online to requwst them but have receive nothing.
    I would appreciate any help you could give me .Thank you Roy Cooper former usnr

  5. william f. hemphill says:

    sir i need help with family court i live below the poverty level and can not afford a lawyer i gave family court all my medical and mental records proving my disability whitch excludes me from support, but the master disobeyed federal and stste lawguidelines and put an order on me that was 2 1/2 times my gross income. i’ve been put in jail twice and made to live on the street because of this, this is hurting my health mental and medical you may check at phila va hospital i’ve been under ntheir care. please help me i beg you.

  6. How about our clams? could thay be faster in talling us where we stand? I’am 69 years old and I have been fighting for not one clam but,two clams. I’am still waiting. And don”t tell me there alot of us back log. We serve our time. Now we want to better our lives. We try ever day with the pain and hardship.You give us doctor that give us pill like Morphine and Oxycodon and that to give us a better life. What kind of life can you live with you growing family. I’am asking for more benefits and faster on how we all stand.

  7. Can you please help us? My husband Lynn Carter, and I suffered U.S. Veterans Patient and Patient Caregiver ABUSE on June 15, 2011 and the issue is being ignored by our U.S. Elected officials and the United States Government after we ask our Congressman, and both of our Senators in Washington D.C. to open an investigation into the issue. Lynn is known as Doc Lynn Carter at http://www.facebook.com – PETITION: http://www.change.org/petitions/congressman-steve-womack-senator-john-boozman-senator-mark-pryor-open-a-u-s-veteran-hospital-patient-abuse-investigation

  8. Roger D Dye says:

    I have been receiving VA doctor and hospital care from the VA for numerous years and feel I have been treated with respect, dignity, genuine concern and quality care, every time. Did I say ‘everytime’? I mean EVERYTIME! My “Hat” goes off to all of the doctors, nurses, PA’s and the other staff for puttin’ up with ol’ grumpy vets like us. I offer a sincere ‘Thank you’ for all that you do. Keep up the good work!