Michelle Obama talks veterans’ jobs and homes -- but not VA healthcare

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a keynote address at the Unite for Veterans Summit in Century City.
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a keynote address at the Unite for Veterans Summit in Century City.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

This is what it means to be first lady: you enjoy a 66% popularity rating, almost 20 points higher than your husband’s.

And you can give an entire speech about the needs of veterans — for homes and good jobs — without ever having to refer to the conflagration over their medical care that has enveloped his White House.

Michelle Obama was the guest of honor Wednesday at a Century City gathering called Unite for Veterans, where federal, state and local officeholders gathered along with business and academic specialists to pursue housing and employment opportunities for veterans.


The first lady and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, have made veterans and their families a special focus and Obama spoke movingly about those she had met who had stumbled and persevered as they moved from the battlefield to home.

“Thousands of men and women who risked their lives for this country are transitioning back home and we cannot make the same mistakes for this generation that we made in the past,” said Obama, alluding to the indifference and worse that greeted Vietnam-era veterans.

Obama, who later appeared at an event touting music educators at the Grammy Museum downtown, saluted Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to hire thousands of veterans and to find homes for the estimated 6,000 living on the streets of Los Angeles.

And she encouraged business leaders to seek out veterans for job openings and to understand that their military roles give them training that can be applied to domestic jobs.

“When these men and women come home, they have got the skills that any company in America should want and they are more than prepared to succeed,” she said.

“The idea that any of our veterans are spending months or even years trying to find a job is unacceptable.”


Despite repeated references to the Veterans Administration as a source for jobs and other forms of assistance, Obama did not mention the agency’s healthcare scandal, which forced the departure of Secretary Eric Shinseki and prompted investigations into practices that delayed treatment for veterans.

The closest she came may have been was one line: “We want to show them that we don’t leave any veteran behind.”

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