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President announces new initiatives during American Legion speech

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  • American Legion helps veterans in crisis

    American Legion helps veterans in crisis

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 6:36 PM EDT2014-08-26 22:36:47 GMT
    A spokesperson with the American Legion said after the scandal with the Veterans Administration in May, the organization said they needed to do more than ask people to resign. More >>
    A spokesperson with the American Legion said after the scandal with the Veterans Administration in May, the organization said they needed to do more than ask people to resign. More >>
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV/AP) -

President Barack Obama addressed the American Legion National Convention Tuesday, three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, in an appearance that is also fraught with midterm politics.

The president's speech to the Legionnaires Tuesday in Charlotte drew attention to administration initiatives to care for veterans once they come home.

"You're the one who bear the wages of war, you're the ones who carry the scars," Obama said.

For the most part, the response to the president was tepid.  There was polite, but never enthusiastic applause.

It was clear that the veterans in the hall were anxious to hear what the president would say about fixing the Veterans Administration.

President Obama outlined the five priorities the Administration is focused on to ensure it is fulfilling promises to service members, veterans and their families: delivering the quality health care veterans have been promised; ensuring all veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream; providing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the resources our veterans deserve; protecting the dignity and rights of all veterans; and eliminating the decades-old disability claims backlog.

"Upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation," Obama told the group of roughly 9000 veterans.

Obama also announced 19 new executive actions to serve the military community, including new efforts to strengthen service members' access to mental health care, improve the transition between DoD and VA care for those leaving military service, and improve economic opportunity for military families with new private-sector commitments that will make it easier to obtain mortgage interest rate reductions and reduced monthly payments – helping more of troops save money through lower monthly payments.

Obama announced that the Administration is continuing to make significant progress toward reducing the number of veterans who suffer from homelessness.

Early Tuesday morning, veterans began lining up outside of the Charlotte Convention Center for a chance to get inside to hear the President's speech.

Many of them who spoke to WBTV say they are tired of the way they're being treated.

The scandal involving the veterans administration surfaced in the spring.

Leadership of the American Legion demanded the President take action to clean up the VA and help veterans.

The Veterans Administration has been under heavy and intense criticism around the country for a scandal that revealed lengthy waiting times veterans have to endure for doctor visits or claims to be processed.

Veterans say they want proof that the President and that the new leadership of the VA have gotten rid of the people who were behind the troubles veterans faced.

For Obama, the visit to North Carolina has a heavy political subtext.

The state's Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is in a difficult re-election race and Obama is not popular in the state.

Hagan was scheduled to speak to the American Legion too, after the President.

"It was a pleasure to welcome President Obama to Charlotte and share with him our vision for this region," said Mayor Dan Clodfelter.

"Our city is honored to host the 96th American Legion National Convention and I believe the veterans and families who are participating in this week's events appreciate his support and commitment to veterans' affairs."

Copyright 2014 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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