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President Obama Talks About VA Reform, Need for Improved Mental Health Care

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(CHARLESTON, N.C) -- During his trip to Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, President Obama discussed the newly released report on the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the need for better mental health care to battle the growing problem of veteran suicide.

"Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there," Obama told the 96th national convention of the American Legion in Charlotte. "Those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens."

"We are going to get to the bottom of these problems," Obama added. "We're going to fix what is wrong. We're going to do right by you, and we are going to do right by your families.  And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I’m making to you here."

Obama emphasized his aim to "end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans" -- pointing to 19 executive actions he announced Tuesday to improve veteran access to mental health care.

"As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy," Obama said. "So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn't get the support that they need, that means we haven't done enough."
Obama highlighted his push to expand suicide prevention training across the military and the VA, "so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help."

"We're calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that's on par with the coverage for other medical conditions," he said.  "We're going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who's hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend. Pick up the phone. You are not alone. We are here for you. And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help. They were there for America. We now need to be there for them."

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