- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RENO, Nev. — President Trump told the American Legion’s national convention Wednesday that he’s keeping his campaign promises to fix the broken Veterans Affairs system, signing a bill to cut the amount of time veterans wait for a decision on appeals of their disability payments.

In a dig at former President Barack Obama, Mr. Trump said veterans groups are “much more proud than they were last year at this time.”

“You see what’s been happening,” Mr. Trump said. “Now you have a true reformer in [VA] Secretary David Shulkin. He’s done an incredible job. We are publishing wait times online for every VA facility so you know what the wait is.”

The audience cheered its approval.

The president noted the passage of the VA Accountability legislation earlier this year. If people aren’t doing the job in the VA, he said, “We look at them and say, ‘You’re fired.’”

The bill he signed at the convention is designed to speed up a backlog of veterans’ claims on appeal. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, he said, will speed up the appeals process after benefits are denied.

“No longer will veterans be kept waiting for years to get an answer to their appeals,” he said.

He described the bill as “a big one.”

The VA provides $63.7 billion in compensation annually to about 4.1 million veterans living with disabling conditions suffered during military service. The changes will apply almost entirely to newly filed appeals versus the existing backlog.

Mr. Trump struck a somber tone that was a dramatic departure from his rip-roaring rally speech the night before in Phoenix, where he blasted his political foes, the news media and even some of his reluctant allies on Capitol Hill.

“You love our country and you definitely defend our great American flag,” he told the veterans. “Today, we are here to honor you for the sacrifices you have made to defend our nation and preserve our way of life.”

Mr. Trump said that he also came to the convention for another reason.

“We are here to hold you up as an example of the strength, courage and resolve that our country will need to overcome the many challenges that we face,” he said. “We are here to draw inspiration from you as we seek to renew the bonds of loyalty that bind us together as one people and one nation.”

He noted that there were veterans in the audience who have fought in every U.S. engagement dating back to World War II. And he said the U.S. must take care of its great veterans.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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