Secretary tells veterans group there is no substitute for the VA

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VA Secretary Robert McDonald addresses the crowd and discusses the importance of the VA for both veterans and their families. Thousands of disabled veterans from across the country gathered to hear VA Secretary Robert McDonald speak on Aug. 8, 2015 during the opening session of the DAV convention at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver. (Callaghan O'Hare, The Denver Post)
VA Secretary Robert McDonald addresses the crowd and discusses the importance of the VA for both veterans and their families. Thousands of disabled veterans from across the country gathered to hear VA Secretary Robert McDonald speak on Aug. 8, 2015 during the opening session of the DAV convention at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver. (Callaghan O'Hare, The Denver Post)
VA Secretary Robert McDonald addresses the crowd and discusses the importance of the VA for both veterans and their families. Thousands of disabled veterans from across the country gathered to hear VA Secretary Robert McDonald speak on Aug. 8, 2015 during the opening session of the DAV convention at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver. (Callaghan O’Hare, The Denver Post)

Somedays the Department of Veterans Affairs catches more criticism than any other federal agency.

That was not the case Saturday in a packed ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver. The national convention of Disabled American Veterans greeted VA Secretary Robert McDonald with a standing ovation and applauded his remarks.

He took the opportunity to defend the department against congressional critics, including those who have talked about privatizing the VA, and to tout its accomplishments.

The research arm of the VA, he said, performed the first liver transplant and invented the shingles vaccine. The department is the largest employer of nurses in the nation and boasts the lowest foreclosure rate on the home loans it guarantees.

“There is no substitute for the VA,” he said. “Veterans need the VA. Americans need the VA.”

The DAV crowd applauded when McDonald said the number of veterans awaiting benefit decisions had been cut in two years from 611,000 to slightly more than 100,000, a task accomplished partly with mandatory overtime.

 

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