Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
August 17, 2009
Good morning everyone. It’s good to be in Philadelphia and to join Senator Specter in this important event to talk about Veterans and Veterans’ issues. Senator Specter—many thanks for your support of Veterans over the years, and for inviting me to be here today.
- Mike Moreland—Network Director, VISN 4, and Rich Citron—Director, Philadelphia VA Medical Center and all our other VA employees here to help answer Veterans’ questions and to assist them;
- Dr. Pennoni—President of Drexel University, and members of your faculty and staff , thank you for hosting this event;
- Members of our Veterans Service Organizations in attendance today;
- Most importantly—I’ll ask all the Veterans and active service members in the audience to stand. Please join me in a round of applause for their service to the Nation. Thank you.
President Obama has charged me with transforming VA into a high-performing 21st century organization, one that serves Veterans by increasing access to services and benefits they earned, by providing them the highest quality of healthcare available, and by controlling costs for them to the best of my abilities. Doing so will make VA a model of governance. It will be a different organization from the one that exists today.
Five years from now, we want to be the provider of choice for Veterans in insurance, in healthcare, in education, in home loans, in counseling, and in employment.
To achieve that kind of regard from Veterans, we must make it easier for them to understand their entitlements and then make it much simpler for them to access their benefits. In the short term, we’re working as fast as we can on issues that have an immediate, positive impact for our Veterans:
- Implementing the new post-9/11 GI Bill, the most comprehensive educational benefits package offered to Veterans since the 1944 GI Bill. The first tuition checks went out this month, some to Veterans in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia schools.
- Expanding access to quality care for Priority Group 8 Veterans under the President’s initiative to restore VA care to those who lost access to it in 2001.
- Fighting to end homelessness for 131,000 Veterans who sleep on our Nation’s streets each night. This effort requires simultaneously attacking the issues of substance abuse, mental health, as well as education, jobs programs, and housing for Veterans.
- Expanding our facilities and services to reach Veterans where they live, including rural areas. That’s what a system of VA Medical Centers, Community Based Outpatient Centers, Veterans Centers, tele-health and tele-mental health care efforts is all about—expanding our footprint to where Veterans live and work.
All of this is part of advocacy for Veterans. VA cares for Veterans. We are going to provide that care where they live, not where it is convenient for VA. More must be done to earn a “provider of choice” reputation amongst Veterans. Thanks to President Obama and the support of Congress, we’re a lot closer to that objective.
Again, I’m glad to be here and I look forward to your questions.