Care and services for military veterans have progressed under President Obama. But as the president himself acknowledges, there is a long way to go.
President Obama's last major address to a gathering of veterans came Monday before the Disabled American Veterans, who gave him a rousing welcoming ovation. The president observed that the Department of Veterans Affairs has hired opened more clinics, hired more doctors and nurses and extended more benefits to veterans, especially those in rural areas, since the 2014 controversy over extremely long wait times for VA services at clinics.
While veterans' homelessness has been cut nearly in half over the last two years, Mr. Obama acknowledged that his goal of reducing it to zero will not be met before he leaves office. Mental health care remains inadequate, and a backlog in disability claims remains as well. In many of these cases, the refusal of congressional Republicans to agree to fund the necessary upgrades in staffing and technology have hamstrung White House reform efforts.
Still, this constitutes major progress since the shameful Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect scandal of 2007 that personified the disinterest of the Bush-Cheney administration in the plight of veterans. Soldiers were fodder for a disastrous war in Iraq whose ramifications are still felt today and were forgotten as soon as they returned to U.S. soil, often in severe need of physical and psychological treatment.
The White House's reaching out to veterans and acknowledgement of shortcomings that still must be addressed is part of the seismic political shift that has gone on since Donald Trump emerged as the standard-bearer of the Republican Party. The GOP has long wrapped itself in the flag and marketed itself as the pro-soldier, pro-veteran party, but Mr. Trump's disrespect for the military, now in the headlines with his insults of a Muslim Gold Star family, is depriving the party of those claims.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and military support groups have bludgeoned Mr. Trump for his cruelty, and while many Republican officials like Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war, have done the same, for the most part they still support his presidency, which is unconscionable. Whether Mr. Trump wins or loses in November, the Republican Party is sacrificing huge chunks of its traditional constituency, as well as much of its honor and integrity.