The White House has made it easier for veterans to access their health care and benefits, Vice President Mike Pence told American Legion members as its 100th National Convention drew to a close Aug. 31 in Minneapolis.
“We’ve expanded telehealth options, we’ve opened a new White House VA hotline run by veterans for veterans and we’ve made it easier for America’s veterans to get the mental health care services they need to treat the invisible wounds of war,” Pence said.
He vowed to improve the services for the current generation of servicemembers returning home from war. “You do not carry that burden alone.”
While touching on a range of issues, Pence highlighted efforts that he said showed the administration has worked hard to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs, noting there has been $55 million in retroactive benefits paid out to veterans. That work is thanks to the work and advocacy of The American Legion.
“Throughout your storied history, The American Legion has advocated for its nation’s veterans in the highest levels of our nation’s government,” said Pence, who is the son of a Bronze Star recipient from the Korean War and is the father of a U.S. Marine. “Your work over the past century has made an incalculable difference for our nation’s veterans, those who serve in the armed forces today and their families.”
Pence noted the historic 100th national convention of The American Legion.
“A century of service and sacrifice,” he told the assembled crowd of veterans. “Thanks to the men and women of The American Legion, we are at the start of a new century of American strength, and The American Legion has been there every step of the way.”
He thanked the veterans for their service. ”You, Legionnaires, answered that call in your time. You veterans are emblematic of American greatness.”
Pence paid tribute to the late Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War prisoner of war. “He did not yield,” the vice president said. “After he returned home, he entered a new kind of service in the halls of our nation’s Capitol. America will always remember and honor the lifetime of service of United States Sen. John McCain.”
He also addressed national security and the various threats the U.S. faces, including the progress made against the Islamic State. “Together with our allies, we've taken the fight to radicalized Islam on their soil. ISIS is on the run, their caliphate has crumbled and we soon will drive ISIS from the face of the earth.”
The vice president also praised The American Legion for its support of children and youth programs. In 1977, Pence won The American Legion Department of Indiana’s Oratorical Contest. “It began my lifelong love of the Constitution of the United States.”
Throughout his roughly 25-minute address, Pence touched on a variety of programs and initiatives carried out by The American Legion.
“Throughout your storied history you have advocated for veterans at the highest levels of our government, and your work over the past century made a difference for all those who serve in the armed forces and their families,” he said.