RENO - President Barack Obama told veterans Monday in Reno that he has kept his promises to them and will continue working to expand and improve their benefits and services.
"Our nation only endures because there are patriots to protect it," he said.
Obama addressed a crowd of several thousand attending the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. He also signed the Veterans' Skills to Jobs Act to help veterans leaving military service turn the skills learned in the service into credentials that get them jobs.
He also said he is overhauling the Transition Assistance program to get veterans more personalized help as they plan their post-military careers.
"Veterans have the skills that America needs," Obama said, adding that expanding those programs will be critical as more than 1 million troops return to the job market.
"We'll provide the training they need," he said.
He said his administration has hired some 200,000 veterans as federal employees. He said changes in eligibility for such ailments as those caused by Agent Orange have made benefits available to 800,000 more veterans over the past three years.
He said Veterans Affairs is adding thousands of claims processors to handle the growing number of claims for benefits.
Obama told the audience that despite all the talk about impending cuts to the military defense budget, "there is no reason that should happen."
"People in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong," he said.
He asserted that too many Republicans who voted for those cuts are "trying to wriggle out of what they promised to do."
"If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don't need and funding our troops to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every time," Obama said. "Let's stop playing politics with the military."
He said that with fighting having ended in Iraq and approaching the end in Afghanistan, some of the money spent there can be used to pay down the deficit as well as invest in the nation at home.
Obama also told them not to worry about their benefits, that veterans' benefits are unaffected by those wars, as is the health care they receive.
"And I will not allow veterans' health care to be turned into a voucher system," he said.
Obama maintained that he has kept the promises he made to veterans.
"You don't just have my words; you have my deeds, you have my track record," he told the audience.
They cheered when he said his administration "will keep making historic investments in our veterans."
But the loudest cheers came when Obama told them his administration has put up a website that allows people to check who has received what medals and honors during their military service.
"It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes, but it is contemptible," he said. "No American hero should ever have their valor stolen."