Honoring America's troops once a year is not enough, President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a speech marking Veterans Day.
Speaking at the Arlington National Cemetery, Obama repeated multiple times that while it is right to have ceremonies and parades on Veterans Day to recognize the troops, “our tributes will ring hollow if we stop there.”
“This day is not only about gratitude for what they have done for us," he said. "It is also a reminder of all that they still have to give to our nation and our duty to them.”
Obama said the government has a responsibility to care for veterans, and he also called on citizens to do their part by reminding the nation how valuable veterans can be in the workplace.
“If you want to get the job done, hire a vet. If you’re a business that needs team players that know how to lead and execute an idea, hire a vet,” Obama said. “Every sector, every industry, every community can benefit from the incredible talents of our veterans.”
The president's message to Congress was that there are still reforms needed to provide quality health care, disability and education benefits to veterans.
Obama is pushing lawmakers to pass a plan to consolidate the Department of Veterans Affairs' health care programs into one program in an effort to improve access to health care, continue the effort to reduce the disabilities claims backlog, end veteran homelessness and improve education opportunities for veterans by improving the GI Bill to ensure schools are preparing veterans for employment.
This effort is part of the administration’s goal of improving how the government treats veterans in the wake of revelations that some veterans were waiting 30 days or more for medical appointments through the VA in Phoenix, Arizona.
More recently, the VA released a report in September that said as of September 2014, there were more than 800,000 pending records, and more than 300,000 of those records were for veterans who had died. The data does not provide enough details to know for sure how many of those pending records were for veterans waiting to receive health care benefits.
Obama’s message also came with some positive news about his mission to end veteran homelessness. While the country has not met the initial goal to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, Virginia has recently become the first state to achieve the goal.
Additionally, Las Vegas, Syracuse and Schenectady, New York, are the most recent cities to have conquered veteran homelessness.