The needs of veterans seeking timely decisions about VA benefits claims topped the agenda of American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz in a Thursday meeting with President Barack Obama at The White House. The commander also expressed his appreciation of the administration’s support for Legion-backed efforts to improve the transfer of military experience into credits for licensing and credentials in various trades and specialized career fields.

“As the troops are coming home from war and separating from military service, it is imperative that we, as a nation, ease their transition to civilian life,” Koutz said after the meeting. “President Obama and The American Legion are on the same page when it comes to two vital aspects of that transition: timely decisions on VA benefits claims and fair consideration of military experience when veterans pursue careers in the private and public sectors that require training certification. We’ve made great progress over the last 12 months on the licensing and certification front, but we still have a long way to go.

“As for the VA claims backlog, The American Legion and The White House are both disappointed that the number of undecided claims continues to grow and little progress has been made to shorten wait times. To that end, President Obama and I agree that now is not the time for finger-pointing, and the Legion will work urgently with VA to achieve workable solutions.”

The commander and the commander-in-chief discussed specific strategies to ensure that VA’s new Fully Developed Claim processing system is effective at the regional office level.

Koutz also shared with Obama the Legion’s concerns about VA services for female veterans and the continuing need to improve mental health care for veterans.

“We know that VA has committed resources and personnel to tackle both of these issues, but, again, we are still waiting for measurable progress. This is a very challenging time for VA, but it’s the duty of our nation to provide care for the men and women who have served in uniform, especially during wartime, regardless of gender and with compassion for their mental-health needs. The president fully understands that duty, and I assured him that the 2.4 million members of The American Legion are at work across the country every day to ensure that it is upheld.”

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