By James Turnage
I live under the flight path for the Reno/Tahoe International Airport. I was working in my backyard yesterday, and it seemed too quiet. I realized it was Monday, July 23rd, and President Obama was coming to Reno to speak at the VFW Convention. This was the second time in a couple of months Air Force One has landed in Reno, and the skies were cleared for security reasons. I heard an approaching aircraft, knew it was the President, rushed in to get my camera, and barely got the nose, front landing gear, and two inside engines as it passed over my home.
I was anxious to see what he had to say, as all veterans were. He addressed two items that were on the mind of all of us. I have met many members who attend these conventions. Their goals are admirable, and should be weighed seriously. Their primary purpose is to ensure those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are treated better than they were. A large number of them are from the Vietnam War era.
Mr. Obama first ensured them that although the number of claims have increased dramatically as more of our fine, young, men and women return from war zones, the VA has not been able to keep up as quickly as necessary. The number of claims has risen to over 558,000, and over two thirds of those are still pending. Their own independent inspector general lays the blame on the VA for not assigning enough staff to handle the numbers. Also, division managers neglected to follow their own polices of conducting monthly reviews of claims of over one year.
Secondly, Mr. Obama stated; “We’ve also focused on the urgent needs of our veterans with PTSD. We’ve poured tremendous resources into this fight.” This statement is true, but again the inspector general noted that, although it is policy that mental health claims be fully investigated within 14 days, almost fifty percent of the applicants had waited over 50 days.
Obama called it an outrage when he hears about service members and veterans who died waiting for help. “We’ve got to do better,” he said. “This has to be all hands on deck.”
Today is Mitt Romney’s turn to speak in front of the delegates. We’ll see what he has to say, later in the day.
Sun Valley, Nevada