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Health & Fitness

Obama addresses vets in trip laden with politics

Published:   |   Updated: August 26, 2014 at 07:08 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is addressing the American Legion National Convention in an appearance that is also fraught with midterm politics.

The president's speech to the Legion convention Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, aims to draw attention to administration initiatives to care for veterans once they come home.

For Obama, the visit to North Carolina has a heavy political subtext. The state's Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is in a difficult re-election race and Obama is not popular in the state. Hagan was scheduled to speak to the American Legion too, but her spokeswoman declined to say whether she would appear on stage with the president.

The campaign of Hagan's Republican opponent, Thom Tillis, accused Hagan of being a "rubber stamp" for Obama and "compliant with the administration's failure to provide our veterans with the health care that they deserve."

Obama could also face a skeptical audience. In a July Associated Press-GfK poll, his approval rating among veterans and veterans' households lagged behind his overall approval rating at just 33 percent, with 66 percent disapproving.

Eager to distance herself from the president, Hagan issued a statement Friday ahead of the Legion convention saying the administration "has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans."

Obama's address to the veterans also comes as his administration considers whether to confront Islamic State militants by taking military action against them in Syria. U.S. officials said Monday that Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, and a third said they have already begun, a move that could pave the way for U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets in that country.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama was not likely to offer any details about his policy in the region.

Earlier this month, Obama signed a $16.3 billion law aimed at easing the long waits that tens of thousands of military veterans had endured to get medical care.

The law, a product of rare bipartisanship in the House and Senate, followed reports of veterans dying while awaiting appointments to see VA doctors and of a widespread practice of employees covering up months-long wait times for appointments. In some cases, employees received bonuses based on falsified records.

The VA says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

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Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

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