President Obama Talks ISIS Strategy Before American Legion

The president speaks to veterans amid reports that delays in the VA did not result in deaths.
37:30 | 08/26/14

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Transcript for President Obama Talks ISIS Strategy Before American Legion
Hello I'm Michelle Franzen in New York veterans affairs taking center stage today President Obama set to speak today at the American legions 96 national convention in Charlotte. This as investigators -- they have salaries and no group. That long wait times -- times covered up by hospital employees directly caused the death of any military veterans. The early summer scandal led to the resignation of air actions -- a popular former army general. Robert MacDonald the former head of -- -- -- Procter & Gamble was confirmed as his replacement late last month. This report though has been months in the making so with more now we -- joined live by ABC news White House correspondent Jim avalanche. Jim what has the new VA secretary Robert McDonald said about the report. Well this is kind of an odd thing because the report itself will not be released until 1 o'clock but the VA the Veterans Affairs Department. Gets an early copy and they get a chance to respond. And so the VA has seen the report already and they've already sent their response back to the inspector general's office also the head of the VA has sent a letter. Saying that he is happy to find that in fact none. The deaths in Phoenix this can actually traced directly to the delays there. Sounds like the president's about speak now -- And Jim. Idea who conducted the report and is there any suggestion that it could be biased -- in the VA's favor. But the inspector general's office. Did the report can no there's not any real suspicion it could be biased. There are complaints already from whistle blowers who -- heard that none of the deaths haven't connected that to the delays. Who are incredulous to that they believe that there must be some. Deaths can directly contributed to by these delays at the VA admits that there that it -- that -- happening. So that whistle blower once they see this report you can expect -- to come out strong and say that there's something wrong with the report I don't think they'll say it was biased. They may say it's incomplete. -- and also give us an idea does this report cover the Phoenix VA or all of the hospitals that are used delaying or denying timely care. Inspector general's office conducted. Interviews. Across the nation. And investigated the chaos hospitals across the nation so while Phoenix was the epicenter of this scandal. There were problems all over the place from San Antonio to Denver to Albuquerque. And the inspector general's office went into and investigated those with complaints at all over the country. And also we know that congress has authorized a lot of money for the VA earlier this summer do we know how that money has so far been used and -- and where this money will be going in the future. So -- we're talking about sixteen billion dollars that the president has signed. Into into law and with that money is being used for. Is to hire more doctors. Hire more people to screen when the when the veterans come to the hospital. You know the care itself at the hospitals has not been criticized the -- itself effect has been praised. The problem is getting in to see a doctor and and and having enough doctors there to see the patients so. Much of the money's going to be used for that also some of the money will be used. To allow. Those who cannot get in right away and to allow of those veterans who have far away from a hospital or clinic. To go to private doctors and the VA will pay that bill so a lot of that money is being used for those things and also to open up more clinics across the country. And Jim with this report and -- the scrutiny are we hearing that wait times are actually going down decreasing. We haven't gotten any definitive reports on the -- times yet. We hope to find out more of -- on that from the inspector general's office the the White House has said and so as the veterans administration that there were doing a full court press that they've contacted all those people who run weightless. To try to get them an opportunity to get an -- see a doctor right away. We don't know how that's going I have to say -- we haven't heard more complaints lately. So it without the complaints that does seem as though at least there there is less on the radar screen right now hopefully we'll find out soon what's going on. ABC news White House and senior national correspondent Jim Matalin thank you so much and we want to take you now to Charlotte live were President Obama hasn't done -- marbles. You step forward you raised your right hand you swore a -- all. You put on the uniform. And earned the title you care to this day. -- soldiers sailors airmen Marines. Coast -- Among you're proud veterans of World War II. Of Korea. Vietnam. And desert storm and the Balkans. And our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Across the generations. You served without. Made us proud. You carry the memory of friends and never came home. Our fallen. -- prisoners of war. Those missing in action. Heroes that our nation. Can never forget. When you took off their uniform he earned another title the title of veteran. And you never stopped serving. Legionnaires' you put on -- cat or that emblem for god and country and took care of one another. Making sure our veterans receive the care in the benefits and you've earned and deserve. And just as you defended America over there you helped build America here at all. As leaders and role models in their communities. As -- open doors and business owners. As champions for a strong national defense. You helped. The United States of America become what we are today. The greatest democratic economic and military force. For freedom and human dignity of the world -- ever know. And these are challenging times. I don't have to tell you that. Around the world as -- here at home. To turn on the TV and we're saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy. -- can be easy to grow Senecal. Or give in to the sense that the future we seek is -- -- beyond our reach. But as men and women who have been tested like few others you should know better. You know that cynicism is -- the character of a great nation. And so even as we face yes the hard tasks of our time. We should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world. Think about. Six years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in some ways the crisis. Had the potential of being worse than the Great Depression. Thanks decisions we made to rescue our economy thanks good termination of the American people we are stronger at all. Over the past 53 months our business is -- nearly ten million new jobs. The longest streak of private sector job creation in American history. Construction and housing -- rebounding. Our auto industry and manufacturing are booming are high school graduation rate is at a record high. More young people earning their college degrees than ever before. Millions more Americans now have quality affordable health care. We cut the deficit by more than half. And now we had to sustain this momentum so more people share in this progress our economy works for. For every working American. And just as were stronger at home. The United States is better positioned to lead in the 21 century than any nation on earth it's not even close. We have the most powerful military in history. That's certainly not close. From Europe to Asia our alliances are on rival. Our economy is the most dynamic we've got the best workers regarded -- businesses we have the best universities and the best scientists. -- our domestic energy revolution. Including more renewable energy were more energy independent. Our technologies connect the world. Our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who yearn to breathe free. Our founding ideals inspire the oppressed. Across the goal to reach for their own liberty. -- who we are. That's what America -- More moreover. Nobody else can do what we do. No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends. In times of crisis. No other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace. In times of disaster no other nation has that. Capabilities to deliver so much so quickly. No nation does more to help citizens claim the rights and builder democracies. -- nation does more to help people. In the far corners of the earth escaped poverty and hunger and disease. And realize their dignity. Even countries that criticize us. When the chips are down they need help they know -- -- call. They call us. That's what American leadership looks like. -- why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world. Now sustaining our leadership. Keeping America strong and secure. Means we have to use our power wisely. History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too -- And trying to go it alone without international support or rushing in the military adventures without thinking through the consequences. And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our fans. Barber veteran fail us. Because you're the ones who bear the wages of war. You're the -- secure the scars. You know that we should never send America's sons and daughters in the harm's way unless. It is absolutely necessary and we have a plan and we are resource again. And prepared to see it through. You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom. And that's why after incredible sacrifice. By so many of our men and women in uniform. We remove more than -- 140000 troops from Iraq and welcome those troops home it was the right thing to do. Why we -- refocused our efforts in Afghanistan. And went after Al qaeda's leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan Pakistan driving the talk about out of -- strongholds in training Afghan forces. Which are now in the lead for their own secure. In just four months we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America's longest war will come to a responsible and and we honor every American to -- to make this progress possible. Every single one. Especially the more than 2200. American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. To keep us. And now as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer power in their history. Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress. -- as we go forward will continue to partner whether. Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States. 'cause -- Always made clear. The bulls we've struck against Al qaeda's leadership don't mean the end to the terrorist threat. Al-Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland we've seen that in Yemen. Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad as we've seen most recently in Iraq and Syria. As commander in chief the security of the American people is my highest priority and that's why. -- the brutal terrorist group -- advancing in Iraq. I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors war there. -- -- -- -- American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. Will not allow. The United States be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq. Because ultimately it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves. The limited strikes were conducting have been necessary to protect our people. And have helped Iraqi forces begin to push back these terrorists. We've also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who were trapped on -- mountain. More airdrops of food water medicine show American leadership at our best. And we salute the brave pilots and crews were making us proud in the skies of Iraq every single day. More broadly the -- Iraq underscores how we have to meet today's evolving terrorist threat. The answer is not to send in large scale military deployments. That over stretch our military. And lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time and end up -- extremists. Rather our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners. To take the fight dies. So we're strengthening our partners. More military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition -- Were urging Iraqis to forge the -- inclusive government that can deliver on national unity and strong security forces and good governance. That are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists. And were urging countries in the region. And building an international coalition including our closest allies to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these. Barbaric terrorists. Today our prayers are with the Foley family in New Hampshire they continue to grieve. The brutal murder of their son and brother Jim. But our message to anyone. Who harms our people this simple. America does not forget our reach is long. We are patient justice will be done we have proved time and time again we will do what's necessary to capture those who harm Americans. Go after those -- Did -- take direct action were needed to protect our people. -- defend our homeland. And rooting out -- cancer -- guys so won't be easy and it won't be quick. But tyrants and murderers before them. Should recognize. That got -- hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength in hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom. That is the birthright of every human being. So even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end. We will stay vigilant. We will continue to make sure that our military. Has what it means. And -- today's generation of service members keeps us safe and as they come home. We also have to meet our responsibilities to them. Just as they meet their responsibilities to America. But when I was here at -- legion three years ago. I said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust. And that for me. My administration. Upholding our trust -- our veterans is not just a matter of policy it is a moral obligation. And working together we have made real progress. Think about. Working with a the -- and other veterans service organizations. We've been able to accomplish historic increases. To veterans -- We've protected veterans' health care from Washington politics -- advance appropriations. We've been able to make VA benefits available. To more than two million veterans who didn't have them before including more. Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. We've dedicated major new resources for mental health care. We've helped more than one million veterans and their families pursue their education. Under the post 9/11 GI bill. And moreover as the legion and other veterans groups have said once veterans get in the door. The care you receive from the VA is often very good. The specialized care is among the best in the world. And many of the hard working folks at the VA are veterans themselves veteran serving veterans. And we can never thank them enough for their good work. But what we've come to learn. Is that the -- conduct we've seen. That too many facilities. Would long wait times and veterans denied care folks -- -- the books. Is outrageous. And inexcusable. Officers it was disclosed. I -- for the American people us we would not tolerate it. And we will not. And I know -- -- been on the front lines fanning out across the country. Helping veterans who've been effective. I -- Bob is gonna give you an update on. Actions that we're taking it but what I want you to know directly from me. Is that were focused on this at the highest levels. We are going to get to the bottom of these problems we're gonna fix what is wrong we're gonna do right by you and we are gonna do right by your families and that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I making. Already were making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held -- -- Were reaching out to veterans more than a quarter million so far. To get them off wait lists and into Clinton's. We're moving ahead with reforms at the veterans health administration. And help get -- -- -- supported. And congress passed and I signed into law. The veterans access choice and accountability act which means more resource to help the BA hire more doctors and nurses and staff. It means if you live more than forty miles from VA facility or your VA doctors can't see a fast enough. We'll help you go to a doctor outside the VA. And were instituting a new culture of accountability. Bob doesn't play. -- -- -- -- A -- prayer and West Point. Which should be ethos of balls. Choose the hard right -- of these you're wrong. And wouldn't the new legislation that I signed -- -- Bob in the VA now have the authority. To more quickly remove senior executives who don't meet our high standards if you engage in unethical practices or cover up a serious problem. Should be and we'll be fired. And by the way if you blow the whistle on higher ups. Because you've identified a legitimate problem you should be punished. You should be protected. To my bottom line is that's. Despite all the good work that the VA does every -- 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. And those problems -- -- to regroup and regain the trust of our veterans and live up to. Our vision of a BA that is more effective and more efficient. And that truly puts veterans first. And I will not be satisfied until that happens. And -- in the midst of a new wave about us. More than a million service members returning to civilian life so we have to do more to uphold that sacred trust not just this year or next year but. For decades to come. We're gonna have to stay focused. On the five priorities that I outlined last year and I just want to reiterated for you. Just so you know what it is that we're committing to. Number one we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve. And the new funding we just helped we we just passed with the help of senators Byrd case. That helps. But as you know it's not enough. Even these tough fiscal times. -- therefore proposed another increase in veterans' funding for next year. And I'll continue to resist any effort to exploit. The -- from the VA to turn veterans' health care into a voucher system we don't need vouchers you need VA health care that you have earned and -- you can depend on. We need to make the system more. Sector that we need to make sure veterans are actually getting the health care. You need what you need. Reforming the VHA. And more doctors and staff is a good step. But with this new wave of veterans we've got -- look for the Karen it was veterans need most and that includes -- -- The trees are women veterans -- respect and dignity. It means doing even more to help. -- is doing even more to help veterans from all wars were struggling with traumatic brain injury. And posttraumatic stress. We have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans. As a country. -- -- Weekend. Weekends. We can't stand idly by out on such tragedy. So we're doing -- -- more. More than ever. More awareness more outreach more access to mental health care. So long as any service member or veteran to -- -- feels like we have nowhere to turn or doesn't get the support that they need that means we haven't done enough. We all know we need to do more. Veterans called -- we heard him. Which is why today I'm announcing nineteen new executive actions. To help improve mental health care for those American heroes and their friends. So just one example works -- suicide prevention trekked across the military and the VA. So colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help. Will improve access to care -- more peer support. Veterans counseling veterans -- VA hospitals and clinics. 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. Metal medical conditions. We're gonna make it easier for service members being treated for mental health conditions. To continue their care as they transition to the VA. So automatically connecting them with the support they need -- sure they don't lose access to any medications they may be taken. And maybe most of all. We're gonna keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who's -- and it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend to 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 -- struggling reach out and help. Them to get help. They were there for America we now need to be there for them. Our third priority. We have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog. The good news -- -- -- -- last year we've worked with you to -- the backlog by more than 50%. There been a surge of backlog in part because of an influx of new veterans. In part because we opened up for folks who had -- yesterday. Folks -- Agent Orange symptoms. Never had to work that backlog backed down. The trend lines are good. But we don't just want those claims process -- we need to make sure they get process right. We're going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all. And as we do we're gonna -- Morgan liberate you from those mounds of paper. We've got to move towards -- paperless system. Electronic health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life. And they could cut down on some of bureaucratic red tape. So you're getting the benefits for you were a little bit faster. Number four we need to uphold the dignity and rights of every better. That includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans. Again we've got good news to report today I can announce that. Working together over the last few years we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans. By 13. And that means. On any given night there 2.5 thousand. Fewer veterans on the streets -- in shelters. What we're not gonna stop until every veteran who has defended America has a home in America. That's a basic. Commitment. We have to -- And finally we need to make sure our troops and veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American -- -- that includes a home of their own you know under the law our service members are entitled. To reduce mortgage rates. But the burden is on -- -- -- for and prove they're eligible which means a lot of folks. Don't get the low rates they deserve so today we're turning that around -- announcing a new partnership. In which some of America's biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process. Proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll. In other words we're gonna. Help more of our troops military families own their own home. Without a crushing debt. Were also got right. Keep helping our troops transition to civilian life. Because the work we've done together. If you already have a military truck driver's license. Every state now waves the skills test so it's easier for you get a commercial driver's license. We're gonna keep. Pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans. If you considered good job in the war zone of if -- -- awards don't you should that ago tech nurse and 101. To work at a hospital here in the United States if you can handle million dollar pieces of equipment in a war zone. That should count for something. In getting certified back here at home. If you can do the cubs job so -- -- -- done. In the most extreme circumstances. I'm Bob pretty confident can do that job right here don't. To help our troops and veterans pursue their education we worked with a loan servicers. To automatically cap. Interest rates on student loans to our service members at 6%. For veterans going back to school under the post 9/11 GI bill will keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that. The target and prey on you and your families so far about 6000 colleges and universities have pledged to adhere to our principles of accidents. Promising to do right by our veterans. And more than a thousand colleges and universities have adopted -- eight keys to make sure that they are truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus. And by the way every school in America should join you should be proud if you're educating your veterans should be doing right by the and we're gonna keep an open our veterans find those private sector jobs worthy of your incredible -- Our new online veterans' employment center is a single one stop shop connecting veterans and their spouses to more than one point five million jobs. That are open right now. We're joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions. -- the most opportunities for veterans. And when Michelle and doctor Joseph Biden leading the call. America's businesses are joining forces to hire or train veterans and spouses. More than half a million so far and -- So veterans' unemployment is going down. It's now actually lower than the national average it was higher to begin with and we have been driving it down but we've got more -- -- Especially for post 9/11 veterans we're gonna keep saying to every business in America if you want somebody who knows -- get the job done no matter what the mission. -- -- -- -- -- Fixing what's broken of the -- yet. Insuring the resources you deserve. Delivering health care that you -- Eliminating the back thought. Standing up for your rights and dignity. Helping you realize. The American dream that you. So honorably defended. These are our commitments to you. Here's what we're focused on. As well we can do together. Especially is our war in Afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home. Our newest veterans. There -- a lot of -- here tonight. We salute captain Scott Miller of Indiana. -- proud Hoosier proud Marines in Afghanistan he went out on dangerous patrols travelling to remote villages. Meeting. -- tribal elders building trust. -- partnerships. To push back insurgence. And here at the legion he continues to serve my encouraging businesses across America to give back to the veterans who defended. Our way of life and make our prosperity possible -- -- he's got worse got here today. We salute master sergeant Carol barker of Greensboro, North Carolina. As -- first sergeant of her medevac unit she was responsible for more than a hundred troops. Helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when. Like so often hung in the balance. And here at the legion she continues to serve helping homeless veterans coming off the streets and begin their lives in new with a roof over their heads. Thank you Carol where's Carol. We salute Sargent. -- -- Who grew up just outside New York City. That's result -- was attacked on 9/11 he left -- civilian job he joined the army. A squad leader and Afghanistan he spent most of his time on the fight or flight line up enough 120 degree heat supplying -- helicopter crews. And here the legion continues to serve helping veterans complete their disability claims. Raising his voice in Washington for a strong national defense because. He says some things are worth fighting for. America's worth fighting for thank you Joseph. We're proud of. -- -- -- -- There -- among the patriots here today who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I would ask all of our post 9/11 generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation. I ask these men and women to stand because the American people have to know that even as -- war in Afghanistan comes to an end. Our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun. And this cannot just be the work of government and veterans groups along I want every American to take this commitment seriously please stand. Post 9/11 generation. All of you. We'll -- before. This is not just a job of government. It's not just job of the veterans organizations. Every America. Please join us and take care of those taking care of us. Because only 1% of Americans may be fighting our wars. -- 100% of Americans. Benefit that. From that 1% a 100% need to be supporting our troops a 100% need to be -- or better a 100%. Need to be supporting our military -- Everybody can do something. Every American every business every profession every school every community every state. All of us as one American team. That's how we will truly honor our veterans that's how we will truly say thank you that's how we will uphold the sacred trust. With. Me. Who served and -- -- God but god bless our veterans. God bless the United States of America thank you very much. And you've been listening to President Obama at The American Legion convention in North Carolina. Offering a speech to the veterans who have served in previous wars for decades past. Thanking them for their service and also addressing the veterans affairs scandal. That is rocked many of the facilities around the country he pledged. To fix the problems that exist in the VA system and also expand programs and promised to help veterans and their families. -- can keep up with the story in real time by downloading the ABC news happened star in this story for exclusive updates on ago. For now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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