“We are going to get to the bottom of these problems. We’re going to fix what is wrong,” Obama told thousands of veterans gathered in Charlotte, N.C., for the annual
Shortly before Obama’s remarks, the
The list included seemingly straightforward changes, such as making it easier for veterans to earn commercial driver's licenses, and new funding for complex research. The Pentagon and the
"We have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans," Obama said. "As a country, we can't stand idly by."
Using one of this White House’s preferred strategies for policy changes, Obama also announced new commitments from the private sector.
Similarly, the Department of Education is ordering student loan servicers to cross-reference their student borrowers with the Defense Department's database of veterans in an effort to identify borrowers eligible for student loan relief.
The announcements are part of a White House effort to demonstrate it has learned the lessons of the VA scandal that exposed mismanagement this spring and led to the resignation of Secretary
On Tuesday, the president called the long wait times and "secret lists" for appointments exposed by whistle-blowers at clinics across the country "outrageous and inexcusable," and cast his newly confirmed Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald as no-nonsense reformer.
"Bob doesn't play," Obama said.
More work needs to be done, Obama acknowledged. He gave
In response to the president's speech, the Republican head of the House committee overseeing veterans issues criticized his efforts.
“President Obama’s actions today fall far short of what’s needed to regain the trust of America’s veterans,” said Rep.
Obama's remarks also included a pledge to care for the next generation of veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a promise not to "be dragged back" into another group war in Iraq.
Obama justified his recent air campaign there as "limited" and intended to protect military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq.
The president gave little sign of whether he plans to expand those airstrikes into Syria, something his military advisors have suggested would be necessary to defeat Islamic State militants battling for control in the region.
Obama told the veterans he was mindful of the lessons of the last
"History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences," he said, to applause. "You're the ones who carry the scars. You know that we should never send America's sons and daughters into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through."
Still, Obama said the U.S. would not forget the murder of American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by the extremist militants.
"America does not forget. Our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done," he said. "We have proved time and time again we will do what's necessary to capture those who harm Americans — to go after those who harm Americans. And we'll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland."