26 August 2009

VA Chief's Vow to The American Legion: 'We Will End Vet Homelessness.'

/PRNewswire/ -- Secretary Eric Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs says he and the Obama administration are determined to end homelessness among military veterans. His promise was made as the retired four-star U.S. Army General spoke at the opening session of The American Legion's 91st national convention in Louisville, Ky.

In what he called his "seven month report," referring to his term of office thus far as VA Secretary, Shinseki pointed to the over-representation of veterans among the populations of those with mental health issues, drug abuse, alcoholism and homelessness. He said the Presidential administration and his agency in particular are working very hard to correct this discrepancy as well as enroll many more eligible veterans into VA healthcare, now serving a fraction of those who could receive its benefits, and to address the staggering backlog of benefits claims now facing VA case workers. Retraining, already underway, will help, said Secretary Shinseki.

In his remarks, Secretary Shinseki twice cited the Department of Veterans Affairs motto, inscribed on metal plaques flanking the department's front entrance in Washington, D.C. where, Shinseki said, "I go to work every day." The inscription reads, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan." The words are from President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address.

On a more positive topic, Shinseki lauded the enactment of the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, which expands and modernizes the award of higher education benefits to military veterans. Recalling the post-World War II economic boom attributed in part to the exponential growth of college educations among veterans, the VA Secretary predicted that, because of the newly instituted benefits package, "we are on the verge of that happening again."

Secretary Shinseki joined fellow convention speakers Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General David Petraeus, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, at the Legion convention's opening ceremonies this morning.

With a current membership of 2.5-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

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