News

Obama woos vets with health care, home loans

Obama woos vets with health care, home loans

MILITARY:President Barack Obama reacts after he is presented with a commemorative coin by American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger after speaking about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26. Photo: Reuters/Charles Dharapak

By Mark Felsenthal

CHARLOTTE N.C. (Reuters) – President Barack Obama sought to make amends with veterans on Tuesday, announcing steps to expand their access to mental health care and an initiative with financial firms to lower home loan costs for military families.

The president was embarrassed earlier this year when it was revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs had been covering up lengthy delays in providing healthcare to former military personnel.

Obama, speaking at the American Legion’s national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, said that banks, including Wells Fargo & Co , Bank of America Corp and Quicken Loans, were taking steps to make it easier for members of the military to refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates.

“We’re going to help more of our military troops and their families own their own home without a crushing debt,” Obama said at an American Legion meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The White House said the initiative, in which mortgage servicers will actively seek out people eligible for lower-cost refinancing rather than waiting for applicants, will help tens of thousands of military families save money by reducing their mortgage interest rates.

On a $200,000 mortgage, an interest rate reduction of 1 percentage point would result in over $1,500 a year in savings, White House National Economic Council director Jeffrey Zients said.

Obama announced steps to improve availability of mental health care for military personnel as they move to civilian life and expanded research into post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. He said efforts to improve veteran healthcare would continue.

“Misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities with long wait times and folks cooking the books is outrageous and inexcusable,” he said. “What I want you to know directly from me, is we are going to get to the bottom of these problems, we are going to fix what is wrong, we are going to do right by your families.”

Obama had campaigned on a pledge to improve services for the surge of veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Veterans Affairs scandal undermined public confidence in him.

The president drew praise when he repeated his pledge not to involve U.S. ground troops in Iraq to combat Islamic State militants.

The location of the speech, North Carolina, also has relevance for the president because the state’s incumbent Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is in a tight race against her conservative Republican challenger, Thom Tillis.

Obama hopes the Senate will remain under Democratic leadership in the final two years of his administration to improve his chances of making headway with his agenda. The North Carolina race could tip the balance.

But Obama is unpopular in the Tar Heel State, and Hagan has sought to distance herself from him. She recently criticized him for not doing enough to help veterans in North Carolina.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Recent Headlines

10 hours ago in Local

Public Not Allowed at Obama Speech — But Will Be Broadcast Live on WTAX

President Barack Obama signs the Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 bill into law in the Oval Office of the White House. With President Obama are from left: Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL); Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY); Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA); Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO); Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).
Washington

Where: DC, United States
When: 12 May 2009
Credit: WENN

A spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says the public will not be able to attend when President Barack Obama delivers a speech in the Illinois House chamber on Wednesday.

10 hours ago in Local

State Museum Prepared to Re-Open — If Lawmakers Allow It

2-8-16 Illinois State Museum

The Illinois State Museum can open once again. But State Department of Natural Resources head Wayne Rosenthal says not yet.

10 hours ago in Local

Davis Proposes FAA, Air Traffic Control Operations Changes

2-8-16 Davis

Davis and and a Democratic Congressman are proposing that that Air Traffic Control operations be run by a not-for-profit entity.

11 hours ago in Local

Report: Police Program Helped Man Who Prostituted Teen

police_lights

A newspaper report says a man who's serving 15 years in prison for running an underage prostitution operation did so out of an apartment obtained with the help of the Peoria Police Department.

12 hours ago in Local

Democrats Vying for US Senate Talk Up Experience, Background

I Voted Stickers

The Democrats running for U.S. Senate are working to distinguish themselves from their rivals as they meet for the first time this election season.