Obama says Veterans Affairs agency still needs improving

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2015 1:01 PM

By Julia Edwards

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A little more than a year after the Department of Veterans Affairs' secretary stepped down over reports of inadequate health care offered to former service members, President Barack Obama told veterans on Tuesday his administration had more work to do for them.

"I want you to know I'm still not satisfied. Bob's still not satisfied. We're not going to let up," Obama said, referring to the agency's current secretary Robert McDonald at the 116th annual conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Pittsburgh.

The group was the first major veterans organization to call for an investigation into reports last year that the federal agency was hiding reports of veterans' long wait times for care.

Obama said veterans still needed better mental health care and should not have to drive long distances for care.

The conference also allowed Obama another chance to pitch the nuclear deal the United States and world powers reached with Iran last week.

Obama said the deal shows the strength of American diplomacy, a defense against critics who have criticized him for relying too heavily on negotiations rather military power.

The White House has come under pressure for not negotiating the release of Americans held in Iran as a condition for the nuclear deal the United States and other world power struck with Iran last week.

In his address to the veterans, Obama called on Iran to release the Americans and called them each by name, including Amir Hekmati, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Obama called on Congress to approve his request for flexibility in the Veterans Affairs budget by the end of the month.

He also took jabs at Republican lawmakers for keeping sequestration-level spending caps on the budget, which Obama said cuts into veterans programs.

"We shouldn't be playing partisan politics when it comes to our national security," Obama said.

Obama named each of the five service members killed at the two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday.

He called the shooting senseless.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Andrew Hay)