FACT SHEET: The Obama Administration Continues its Commitment to Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families
On this Veteran’s Day, as we pause to thank the men and women who keep America free, the Administration is redoubling our efforts to serve those that serve us, not only by ensuring that our veterans get the benefits they have earned, but by expanding opportunity for those who sacrifice so much to serve our country: our service members, veterans and their families.
During his annual address to Veteran Service Organizations at the American Legion National Convention, President Obama outlined this Administration’s five priorities for fulfilling our promises to all those who have served: ensuring the VA has the resources our veterans deserve; delivering the health care veterans have been promised; ending the disability claims backlog; protecting the dignity and rights of all veterans; and making sure all veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has made significant progress already through Secretary Bob McDonald’s Road to Veterans Day plan, the roadmap for his first 90 days. We will continue to build on this foundation to improve service delivery, rebuild trust with veterans, and set the course for long term reform.
Ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs Has the Resources to Serve Our Veterans
Over the past five years, the Administration has made more benefits and opportunities available to more veterans than ever before. Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is at its highest level ever, having increased 33 percent during the President’s tenure. For the first time in history, beginning in FY 2011, continuity of care for our veterans has been guaranteed, with more than $55 billion in advance appropriations provided in FY 2015 for VA medical programs to ensure that manufactured crises in Washington don’t disrupt care for our veterans.
Delivering the Health Care Veterans Have Been Promised
VA has made significant progress in accelerating care to veterans and addressing instances of unacceptable wait-times. To improve service delivery, VA has prioritized efforts to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative. As part of this initiative, VA medical centers have increased access to care inside and outside of VA, added more clinic hours and work days, deployed mobile medical units, and shared their best practices from VA’s high-performing facilities throughout the organization. Significant improvements have resulted nationally over the past four months:
- VA medical centers have scheduled 1.2 million more appointments than during the same period last year
- Reduced the national primary care wait time by 18 percent
- Completed 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician
- From June to October 1, 2014, VA has authorized 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47 percent increase over the same period last year.
To respond to veterans’ mental health needs, and in response to the President’s Executive Order, VA has also substantially increased mental health staffing, expanded the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by 50%, and enhanced its partnerships with community mental health providers. In August, the President announced 19 new executive actions to continue to improve the mental health of service members, veterans, and their families.
Ending the Disability Claims Backlog
The Obama Administration is paying the largest number of veteran disability claims in the history of our country. By partnering with Veteran Service Organizations to systematically reduce the benefits claims backlog, we have reduced it by more than 60 percent since its peak in March 2013 and we are on track to eliminate the backlog completely in 2015.
Protecting the Dignity and Rights of All Veterans
President Obama has presided over the steepest decline in veterans’ homelessness in history. For the first time, ending homelessness among veterans is a federal policy priority, backed by a coordinated interagency effort that is yielding concrete results:
- Since 2010, overall homelessness among veterans is down 33 percent and unsheltered veteran homelessness is down 43 percent. This means that on any given night, there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters.
- Answering the President’s call to action, more than 250 mayors, governors, and county executives have committed to end veteran homelessness in their communities.
The President has proposed an expansion of tax credits for private firms hiring disabled veterans. He has also expanded consumer protections for veterans, and provided compensation for service members and combat veterans who were wrongfully foreclosed upon while deployed in defense of our nation.
Making Sure All Veterans Have Every Opportunity to Pursue the American Dream
The Administration oversaw and ensured adequate resources for the successful implementation of the Post 9-11 GI Bill®. Since the inception of Post-9/11 GI Bill®, VA has issued more than $46.2 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments to over 1.3 million individuals. By 2014, over 790,000 were using the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, almost 2 times the number of all education benefit beneficiaries in 2000 (397,000).
We have seen strong improvement in employment for veterans. The 12 month average of the unemployment rate for veterans has fallen by over a third since its peak, decreasing from a high of 8.7 percent to 5.6 percent today. In addition, the 12 month average of the unemployment rate for Post-9/11 veterans has been reduced by over a third since its high in December 2011. However, as with our wider veterans population, there remains work to do with ensuring Post-9/11 veterans find quality jobs. Post-9/11 veterans are still unemployed at higher rates than similar non-veteran individuals, and we need to keep working to close that gap.
The Obama Administration also has the highest number of veterans working in the Executive Branch since the mid-1970s. Since the President created the Council on Veterans Employment in Executive Order 13518 in November 2009, the percentage of veterans hired by the Executive Branch has steadily increased from 24 percent in FY 2009 to 31 percent in FY 2013.
Finally, the Administration has worked to help veterans transition into licensed careers in their preferred state once their service has concluded, and to help licensed military spouses continue their careers when a service member’s family is relocated. As a result, the Administration has overseen the largest expansion of occupational licensing portability for service members and their spouses in history. Working in close partnership with state policy makers and Veteran Service Organizations, 48 States now support some form of expedited portability.
Supporting Families of Veterans and Service Members
This Administration is supporting the families of military members and veterans in an unprecedented way. In 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families, and to support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sector to help provide service members, veterans, and their families with the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.
- Employment: Through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership more than 60,000 military spouses have been hired by 220 private- and public-sector partners since the program launched, and more than 540,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired in the past three years through Joining Forces Companies responding to the President’s call to action to hire.
- Education: More than 100 colleges and universities have signed on to “Educate the Educators”, the Joining Forces commitment that will help prepare educators to lead classrooms and develop school cultures that are more responsive to the social, emotional, and academic needs of children in military families.
- Wellness: Through the American Associations of Colleges of Nursing more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 650 nursing schools have committed to prepare the nation’s nursing workforce to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families by educating the current and future nurses of America to have a better understanding of PTSD and TBI.