THE PRESIDENT: Three point five million people voted. I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy — (laughter) — and job creation. And I don’t know what this says about the online audience — (laughter) — but I just want — I don’t want people to think that — this was a fairly popular question; we want to make sure that it was answered. The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy — (laughter) — to grow our economy. (Applause.)
So — all right.
DR. BERNSTEIN: Thank you for clearing that up. (Laughter.) This next question comes from Columbia, South Carolina: “The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is higher than the national unemployment rate. Our veterans are a national treasure. How can you, the VA, and I ensure our veterans are successfully transitioning into civilian life?”
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. You know, I had just an extraordinary honor — yesterday was Medal of Honor Day. And I went to Arlington National Cemetery, and we had a ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a collection of Medal of Honor winners from all our various wars.
And a special place of honor was a guy named John Finn, who had been present the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was on one of the ships, was shot by — was strafed by the fire from the planes coming in, and yet still had the presence of mind to shoot down a plane, and won the Medal of Honor — or was awarded the Medal of Honor for that.
And it just reminds you that we wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the sacrifices of earlier veterans. We would not — (applause) — we would not enjoy the same safety and security and liberty that we do.
So when our veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan — and they have performed brilliantly, they have done everything that’s been asked of them, regardless of what your views are on these wars — they have earned these benefits that all too often we fail to give them.
And that’s why in my budget we are increasing veterans funding by more than any time in the last 30 years. We’re going to make sure that we deal with the — (applause) — we’re going to make sure that deal with the backlog that too many veterans experience in terms of getting benefits. We’re going to make sure that homeless veterans are receiving housing and services.
The homeless rate for veterans is multiple times higher than it is for non-veterans. That’s inexcusable. It means that we’re going to provide services for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that we’re going to provide services for Traumatic Brain Injury that are the signature injuries of these recent wars. So we are going to significantly increase veterans spending.