President Obama vowed on Tuesday that, despite the pressure from Congress and his administration to balance the federal budget, he will not do it on the backs of U.S. veterans.
While addressing almost 6,000 members of the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group, in Minneapolis, Minn., Obama repeatedly stressed his commitment to improving the lives of those who have served in the military at home and overseas.
The president, whom multiple media outlets report was met by a respectful but unenthusiastic applause from the audience, dwelled on the need to turn the country's attention to domestic prosperity after spending a decade entangled in multiple foreign wars.
It's time to focus on nation-building here at home, he said, according to The New York Times, which reported that Obama singled out the 9/11 generation of veterans who have the skills and dedication to help lead the way.
Unemployment among veterans is an epidemic that the president said he aims to tackle. He said he has directed the federal government to hire 100,000 more veterans and has also proposed tax credits that would encourage private companies to hire former servicemen and women.
The Returning Heroes Tax Credit would be awarded to companies that hire unemployed veterans, while the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit would provide incentives for companies that hire jobless veterans who have a disability.
When Congress returns from recess, this needs to be at the top of the agenda, Obama said.
Unemployment among those who joined the military after Sept. 11 hovered at 13.3 percent in June.
Obama said he plans to increase funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially for programs that help veterans who return home with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. He also stressed that improvements are needed throughout the entire VA healthcare system, especially outreach and care services to female veterans in rural areas.
We're continuing to make major investments -- improving outreach and suicide prevention, hiring and training more mental health counselors and treating more veterans than ever before, he said, according to the American Forces Press Service.
Obama did not reveal how all of these programs will be funded. Next week, he is scheduled to unveil his own jobs proposal that administration officials say will probably include an expansion of payroll tax cuts and other tax credits for companies that hire the unemployed.
However, if the pattern remains the same, his plan will likely be challenged along the way. While the tax credits are viewed as devices that can stimulate the economy, they would also intensify the budget deficit, a move that may rattle Tea Party advocates in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.