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President Obama and new Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald will headline the speakers at the American Legion’s annual convention Tuesday, offering their views on the department’s future in the wake of months of scandals.
The appearances come almost four months after Legion leadership called for the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and other top department leaders over their handling of care delay scandals at dozens of regional health facilities.
Their no-confidence vote sparked a growing wave of criticism for the VA, culminating in dozens of Democrats and Republicans following suit in demanding that Shinseki step down.
His replacement, former Proctor & Gamble CEO McDonald, has already spoken to at three other veterans conventions this month, promising to fix the medical appointment delay problems and restore public trust in the department’s operations.
McDonald’s comments before about 10,000 Legion members in Charlotte, North Carolina, are expected to echo those themes of accountability and a veterans-first focus for all VA offerings. He has also promised independent reviews of VA scheduling methods, to ensure that past problems aren’t repeated.
Like the service academy commencements, the commander in chief typically visits only one of the major veterans groups’ gatherings each year. Obama last spoke at the American Legion convention in 2011, when his major themes were the end of the war in Iraq and the veterans disability claims backlog.
The convention agenda for Tuesday also includes remarks from North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat who last week criticized the White House for not doing enough in recent months to reform VA operations.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are scheduled to address the convention Wednesday. Both men are also scheduled to receive the Legion’s Patriot Award for their work on veterans issues.
All of the convention events are scheduled to be streamed live at www.legiontv.org.