The policy portion broke down into 5 main priority areas:
- Adequate budgets / resources … a somewhat political pitch to end the sequester and get Congress to make a real budget deal.
- Ensure veterans health care … including specific reference to Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD, prosthetics, mental health and the suicide epidemic, help to caregivers and families, and new efforts to provide more targets healthcare to female veterans. The Affordable Care Act was mentioned only as a reassurance that it wouldn't change anything for veterans who already have insurance, but might help those who don't acquire it.
- Reduce the claims backlog … reductions have not moved as fast as he wanted, but the backlog is shrinking. Also spoke of improving enrollment systems so that now and in the future, claims will be processed correctly, the first time.
- Rights and dignity of disabled veterans … ending homelessness of veterans, and mention of the need to pass the UN Disability Treaty, another somewhat political pitch, but not heavy handed.
- Education and jobs … efforts to curb shady education pitches, and increase Federal hiring of disabled veterans, including a push for a Veterans Job Corps that would organize public service around the country.
Some other things I noticed in the speech:
- I wonder why Sgt. Perez didn't choose to have his leg amputated, rather than endure over 30 surgeries? I believe that in many similar cases, the recovery is much faster and more complete.
- Come to think of it, none of the individual stories in the speech included making effective use of wheelchairs or other assistive devices, except temporarily on the way to "recovery".
- American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial??? Is that really its name? Why "for life?"
- "Rather than be defined by what you lost … by what you can't do … you inspired Americans by what you can do."
- The President made several references to veterans helping each other … by telling stories of three DAV employees, and by other examples of peer support, including disabled veterans reaching out to people injured in the Boston bombings … "Dedicated not just to your own recovery, but to taking care of each other."
- Regarding the suicide epidemic, the President said he wanted to make sure that, "Those who are hurting know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's part of staying strong.
- Towards the end, the President did mention people getting on by using prosthetics, wheelchairs, walkers, homes adapted for accessibility, and one-on-one personal care. And at that point I realized that he didn't make a single reference or even hint at older-style permanent VA hospitals or institutions. It was all about people going home again, still recovering, but in their own homes and communities, with their families.
Good job, I thought, with an audience that's not a guaranteed slam dunk for any President. I'd like to see President Obama address a broader disability audience. Also, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I wish they could figure out a way for him to attend a breakout session or two at these types of conventions … so he could hear some of what rank and file members are learning and worried about.