President Donald Trump used his second annual State of the Union address to honor veterans and highlight positive changes occurring at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Over the course of the hour-and-twenty-minute speech, Trump expressed his dedication to helping the VA and our veterans.
The president invited several veterans to attend the annual event as his guests and recognized them throughout his speech. Trump recognized several World War II veterans, including Pfc. Joseph Reilly, Staff Sgt. Irving Locker, and Sgt. Herman Zeitchik.
These special guests, who were greeted with a standing ovation, all fought to liberate Europe from the Nazis 75 years ago and were present on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. Buzz Aldrin, an Air Force veteran and one of the first men to walk on the moon, was also honored at the event.
“In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, redefined the middle class, and when you get down to it – there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America,” said the President. “Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure.”
After decades of attempts to reform the VA, Trump highlighted the bipartisan VA reform that’s currently underway, including major improvements to the transparency and accountability of the department.
Robert Wilkie, the VA Secretary, issued a statement on Trump’s speech echoing the President’s remarks.
“VA is giving Veterans more choice in their health care decisions with the historic MISSION Act and improving transparency by becoming the first hospital system in the nation to post publicly wait times, opioid prescription rates, accountability, settlements, and chief executive travel,” said Wilkie. “The department is also increasing accountability and protecting whistleblowers with the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, and overhauling the disability claims and appeals processes to create a simplified system for filing to provide Veterans with clear choices and timely decisions.”
Improving the overall experience of the VA is the top goal of the reforms currently in progress. Wilkie says improving customer service, which was lacking in the past, is his top priority.
The address has an overarching theme of unity and bipartisan cooperation. Trump says he wants to work closely with both Republican and Democrats for the success of America. Other highlights from the 2019 State of the Union included:
- Immigration reform
- Economic growth
- Foreign policy
For more information on the VA reforms, visit va.gov or click here to watch the entire address.