By Julia Edwards
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – A little over a year after the Department of Veterans Affairs' secretary stepped down over reports the agency was offering inadequate health care, President Barack Obama told veterans on Tuesday his administration had more work to do for them.
"I want you to know I'm still not satisfied. Bob's still not satisfied. We're not going to let up," Obama said, referring to the agency's current secretary Robert McDonald at the 116th annual conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Pittsburgh.
p> The group was the first major veterans organization to call for an investigation into reports last year that the federal agency was hiding reports of veterans' long wait times for care.
Obama said veterans still needed better mental health care & should not have to drive long distances for care.
The conference moreover allowed Obama another chance to pitch the nuclear deal the United States & world powers reached with Iran last week.
Obama called the deal a â€œsmarter, more responsibleâ€ alternative to putting American â€œlives on the lineâ€ in another military conflict.
â€œSome of the same politicians & pundits that are so quick to reject the possibility of a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program are the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq & said it would take a few months,â€ Obama said.
â€œWe know the consequences of that choice, & what it cost us in blood & treasure,â€ he said.
Obama said the deal shows the strength of American diplomacy, a defense against critics who have criticized him for relying too heavily on negotiations rather than military power.
The White House has come under pressure for not negotiating the release of Americans held in Iran as a condition for the nuclear deal the United States & other world power struck with Iran last week.
In his address to the veterans, Obama called on Iran to release the Americans & called them each by name, including Amir Hekmati, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Obama called on Congress to approve his request for flexibility in the Veterans Affairs budget by the end of the month.
He moreover took jabs at Republican lawmakers for keeping sequestration-level spending caps on the budget, which Obama said cuts into veterans programs.
Obama named each of the five service members killed at the two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday.
(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Andrew Hay & Christian Plumb)