ATLANTA, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Serious reforms of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are coming along but there remains a lot of work to do before the agency is operating the way it should, President Barack Obama told a conference of disabled American veterans Monday.
The president discussed the V.A.'s ongoing changes at the 95th National Convention of Disabled American Veterans, saying recent controversies -- including potentially deadly wait times at the nation's veterans hospitals -- have spurred wholesale change that is now taking shape.
"Some of the most unforgettable experiences that I have had have been moments I've spent with you, America's veterans and your families," Obama said.
"No war should ever be forgotten and no veteran should ever be overlooked," he continued. "Even when Americans may disagree about a war, we have to stand united in support of our troops."
One of the main points of the president's speech was that the nation's homeless veteran population has been reduced by nearly half since a 2010 initiative was undertaken by the Obama administration. During his 2008 election campaign, Obama had set a goal to completely eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015.Video courtesy the White House
Obama said the government and people of the United States have a responsibility to take care of servicemen and women once they return home -- a "moral covenant" that has not always been upheld, he said.
"Vietnam veterans sure know this," he said. "When you came home, you deserved better. Veterans who, at times, have struggled to get care at the V.A. [hospitals], you deserved better, too.
"It's not just the V.A.'s job, it's everybody's job."
Obama also noted Monday that a half-million American veterans have voluntarily donated health data to the Million Veteran Program -- a national database to study the impact of genetics on servicemen and women's health, that is part of Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative.
"What this does is it gives us a better understanding of genetics, which will allow us to improve treatments for things like traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress and diabetes and cancer," the president said. "That won't just help veterans, it will help all Americans, and it's just one more example of how our veterans keep serving our country even after they have come home."
"Since I took office, we have made historic increases in veterans funding. The biggest boost in decades. That's a fact. And I have proposed another increase for next year," he added, noting that congressional Republicans want to cut veterans spending.
"Don't just talk about standing with veterans, don't just talk about me" the president said to GOP lawmakers. "Do something to support our veterans. That's what you need to do."