President Donald J. Trump (R) spoke Tuesday to about 4,000 attendees of the National VFW Convention at Municipal Auditorium.
Trump began his remarks noting that in 2019, the VFW will celebrate its 120th anniversary. The VFW, he said, is the oldest, major veteran’s organization in our country. “For more than a century, the VFW has promoted American heroes who promoted American values and they did so with honor,” he said. “We don’t apologize for America anymore. We stand up for America. We stand up for the patriots who defend America,” he said.
During his speech, Trump focused on his efforts to improve care for veterans, to expand benefits to veterans and to build the military.
The president said his administration has worked alongside representatives of the VFW to improve the Veterans Administration and enact reforms to improve service and care to veterans. Last year, he said, he signed into law the Veterans Administration Accountability Act, which allows for the dismissal of any employee in the VA who mistreats or abuses veterans. He also said his administration is working to improve access to medical services for veterans by providing same-day emergency mental healthcare at every VA medical center and to expand tele-health services and walk-in clinics.
He also said that with the help of the VFW, his administration successfully got Congress to pass Veterans Choice. Under this legislation, veterans who aren’t receiving medical care from the VA in a timely manner will have to right to seek treatment elsewhere. That treatment will be paid for by the federal government. “And thousands and thousands of lives are going to be saved. And your quality of life is going to be so much better. So, you don’t have to wait in line for two and a half weeks to see a doctor, like in the past. Veterans Choice has been passed,” he said.
The president said since being elected he has also worked to expand other benefits for veterans. He said he signed legislation to expand the education benefits provided to veterans in the GI Bill.
According to Trump, under his legislation, now the education benefits never expire so veterans can access education anytime throughout their lives. Trump said he has also secured the largest pay raise in almost a decade for military service members.
He also spoke about his efforts to expand the military. “My thinking is always on military and military strength. That is why I’m proud to report that we are now undertaking the greatest rebuilding of our United States military in its history. We have secured $700 billion for defense this year, and $716 billion for next year approved,” he said. Trump said this expansion includes new stealth fighter jets, Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, naval vessels and more than 30,000 additional troops.
In closing, President Trump praised the VFW and its members. “The Veterans of Foreign Wars understand better than anyone the importance of honoring those who put service to their fellow citizens before they put service to themselves,” he said. “To every single member of the VFW, because of your service, your courage, and your example, we are restoring the dreams and the glory, and the greatness of America. We will never give in. We will never give up. And we will never stop fighting for our country, our flag, and our freedom.”