| CHARLOTTE, N.C.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Aug 26 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
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
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
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
"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
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
The president drew praise when he repeated his pledge not to
involve U.S. ground troops in Iraq to combat Islamic State
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)