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Working hand

Jul 17, 2023Jul 17, 2023

The American Legion’s support for and partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paves the way for veterans to get quality health care, its top leader emphasized during a speech.

“With the Legion’s support, we have delivered more support and more benefits to veterans than at any time in our nation’s history,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough told the audience at the 104th American Legion national convention on Aug. 29 in Charlotte, N.C. “All that work adds up to the only statistic that matters: veterans lives saved or veterans lives improved by the work we have done together.”

McDonough discussed VA’s advancements in improving the veterans suicide rate, implementing the PACT Act, reducing the number of homeless veterans and other topics. The secretary noted:

• The 988 suicide hotline has fielded more than 1 million calls, texts and messages since it launched a year ago. “Every second counts in a time of crisis,” he said, noting that the average response time is 10 seconds. “So vets are getting the help they need when they need it.”

• In the year since President Biden signed The American Legion-supported PACT Act, more than 950,000 veterans have filed for toxic-exposure claims, over 4 million have received toxic-exposure screenings and VA has awarded more than $4 billion in PACT Act benefits to veterans, their families and survivors. “This can be the largest expansion of VA health-care benefits in decades,” McDonough said. “This new law, which would not have been passed without The American Legion’s support, has the potential to deliver millions of toxic-exposed veterans and their survivors including many of you here today.”

• There has been a 3,000% increase in virtual home visits since 2020. “We’re fighting to get veterans timely access to world-class care,” he said.

• VA exceeded its goal last year of housing 38,000 homeless veterans. VA is also on pace to meet the same goal this year.

• VA has expanded its work force by 18% while the Veterans Health Administration has increased its work force by 5%. “We are fighting to hire at an unprecedented rate,” he said. “None of this — from ending veterans homelessness to ending veterans suicide to delivering toxic-exposure benefits — happens without growing the size of the VA work force. We are hiring at a record pace, the highest levels of the past two decades in spite of a nationwide labor and health care shortage because people want to work for our nation’s heroes.”

McDonough also praised the work of the Legion, including its 3,000 accredited service officers

“We have no more important partner at VA than you and your team here at the Legion,” he said. “Every single day I see the impact of your work, your devotion to veterans and your partnership with us at VA.”