By Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Deputy Secretary Donald Remy delivered the keynote address during the opening ceremony of JWV’s 126th Annual National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. Just one week before the convention, the VA decided it would not allow Remy or any other department official to travel because of COVID-19 concerns. Remy still wanted to deliver the keynote speech, so he recorded it for members to see at convention.
Remy discussed the priorities that the Biden administration set for the VA. He said the department wants to “deliver more care, more benefits, and more services to more veterans and future veterans than ever before with advocacy, access, outcomes, and excellence as our guiding principles.”
When it comes to access, Remy told JWV that veterans need to have the opportunity to access VA benefits whether it is at a VA facility or at another location in their community. However, he stressed that the current administration will not privatize the VA. “Privatizing the VA is not the answer,” Remy said. “And that’s not going to happen on our watch.” He said the ultimate goal is to make sure that VA’s direct care system is sustainable for future generations of veterans.
When it comes to treatment in VA facilities, all veterans should feel “safe, free of harassment, and free of discrimination,” Remy said. He added that “we owe world-class healthcare benefits and services to all veterans, including women, veterans of color, survivors of military sexual trauma, and LGBTQ+ veterans.”
Remy also talked about the importance of mental health and said one of the most urgent priorities is preventing veteran suicide. He hopes Congress will approve a budget request for more than half a billion dollars for outreach programs that address suicide risk. He said a new program is being developed to help mentally ill veterans in rural areas. The goal is to create a training program that will attract “top-shelf clinicians to those communities, to keep them in rural areas, and to care for the vets living in those areas.”
Another priority for Remy is making sure all veterans have a home. He said the Biden administration will do whatever it takes to keep veterans in their homes through various means, including the emergency rental assistance program and the extension of the foreclosure and eviction moratorium in place due to the coronavirus.
Remy appeared to understand that some veterans are concerned about the man chosen to lead the VA. He said that while Secretary Denis McDonough may not be a veteran or a doctor, he is a leader and a fighter, and someone who will do the best job possible for all veterans.
The Deputy Secretary also discussed his recent visit to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. Remy spent 45 minutes at JWV headquarters and the NMAJMH on August 5, meeting with National Executive Director Herb Rosenbleeth, and getting a tour of the museum from Mike Rugel.
Remy’s entire speech from the convention’s opening ceremony is available on the Jewish War Veterans YouTube channel.
Volume 75. Number 3. 2021