President Barack Obama addressed about 3,500 attendees at today’s Joint Opening Session in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. He discussed various issues of importance to veterans, including: new employment and transition assistance for returning vets, VA health care, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Afghanistan War and creation of a medals database.
Obama announced that earlier in the morning he had signed into law the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act (H.R. 4155), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). The law will make it easier for veterans to find jobs using skills acquired in the military by streamlining the certification process. “Veterans need to be licensed and credentialed when they get home,” he said. Obama also told attendees that he hopes that Congress will pass the Veterans Job Corps Act (H.R. 5683), which would offer unemployed veterans or their widows or widowers jobs in forestry, for example, on public lands.
In order to prepare veterans for civilian life, Obama introduced a major interagency overhaul of the military’s transition assistance program called Transition GPS. “We’re going to set up a reverse boot camp” to enhance “career readiness,” he said. It would extend sessions up to seven days, to include financial planning, an employment workshop and a planning session in which troops can explore career options and talk to experts. The redesigned program should be complete by the end of 2013.
Obama covered several matters regarding VA health care, including the idea of vouchers. “Some have argued for [vouchers], but I could not disagree more,” Obama said to applause. “You don’t need vouchers, you need the VA care you have earned.” He vowed to continue to make veterans health care a priority.