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News & Press: Administration News

Back to Work!

Thursday, October 24, 2013  
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Hello everyone,

I am so happy and excited to be back at work after the federal government shutdown, and to have hit the ground running. We deeply appreciate the Veterans and Military Families, as well as the men and women who work so hard to serve and support them, who were affected by the shutdown.

This newsletter contains recent White House updates that relate to Veterans and Military Families. These newsletters will be sent out periodically, and the most up-to-date information can always be found on

Below you can find details on the President’s latest remarks on the Affordable Care Act and the work being done to improve its implementation, former U.S. Army Captain William Swenson’s Medal of Honor ceremony, and other updates.


Tanya Bradsher
Assistant Director
Office of Public Engagement

President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor to Captain William Swenson

On October 15, 2013, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to former U.S. Army Captain William Swenson.

Last month, the United States Army released a remarkable piece of video. It’s from the combat helmet cameras of a Medevac helicopter crew in Afghanistan. It’s shaky and grainy, but it takes us to the frontlines that our troops face every day. And in that video, as the helicopter touches down by a remote village, you see, out of a cloud of dust, an American soldier.

He’s without his helmet, standing in the open, exposing himself to enemy fire, standing watch over a severely wounded soldier. He helps carry that wounded soldier to the helicopter, and places him inside. Then, amidst the whipping wind and deafening roar of the blades, he does something unexpected. He leans in and kisses the wounded soldier on the head – a simple act of compassion and loyalty to a brother in arms. And as the door closes and the helicopter takes off, he turns and goes back the way he came, back into the battle.

In our nation’s history, we have presented our highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, nearly 3,500 times for actions above and beyond the call of duty. But this may be the first time that we can actually bear witness to a small part of those actions for ourselves. And today we honor the American in that video – the soldier who went back in – Captain William Swenson.

Swenson received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as an Embedded Trainer and Mentor of the Afghan National Security Forces with Afghan Border Police Mentor Team, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, during a lengthy battle with the Taliban in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on September 8, 2009.

Moments like this, Americans like Will, remind us what our country can be at its best – a nation of citizens who look out for one another; who meet our obligations to one another, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. Will, you’re an example – to everyone in this city, to our whole country – of the professionalism and patriotism we should strive for – whether we wear the uniform or not.

Read this full White House blog post.
Read the President’s full remarks.
Watch a video of the ceremony.

Here’s What’s Being Done to Make Better

On October 1, opened for business, offering Americans a new way to compare health insurance plans and enroll in coverage. Nearly 20 million people have visited the site, and Americans all over the country are signing up for affordable, high-quality health insurance.

But, asPresident Obama explained on Monday, the web site hasn’t worked as well as it’s supposed to.

"The problem has been that the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody. And there’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process," he said. "And there’s no excuse for the problems, and these problems are getting fixed."

President Obama also reminded Americans that whileHealthCare.govwill ultimately be the easiest way to buy insurance through the marketplaces, it isn’t the only way to apply and enroll.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 21, 2013. (Official

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

"Even as we redouble our efforts to get the site working as well as it’s supposed to," he said, "we’re also redoubling our efforts to make sure you can still buy the same quality, affordable insurance plans the old-fashioned way – offline, either over the phone or in person.”

Check out the graphic below to learn more about what’s being done to make better and how you can sign up to get covered in other ways. infographic

Read this White House blog post.

An Open Letter to Our Veterans and Their Families

First Lady Michelle Obama wrote an open letter to veterans and their families. You can read it below, or click here for the blog post.

Back when Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, we said that one of our top priorities was the health and well-being of our veterans and their families -- and we said that not only as First and Second Ladies, but as mothers and wives. For us, there's nothing more important than knowing that our families are healthy and happy. And after spending so much time with military families and hearing your stories of service and sacrifice for our country, I know that that's your priority as well.

But while many veterans qualify for health coverage through VA programs, we know that today, there are 1.3 million uninsured veterans and nearly 1 million uninsured family members of veterans. As a result, right now, people who've already sacrificed so much for this country all over the world have to face yet another challenge here at home: dealing with the worry that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you have; enduring all those everyday stresses -- the pains you try to ignore, the symptoms you hope will just go away because you can't afford to see a doctor.

That's just not right. But thankfully, because of the new health care law, you and millions of other Americans will soon have access to the quality, affordable health insurance you need. This new law means you can get preventive care -- things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids -- without additional costs or co-pays. It means you can't be denied coverage because you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, cancer or asthma. And it means that young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old.

And if you don't have insurance, there's now a simple way for you and your family to get all of these benefits, along with the coverage you need.

If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn't applied for VA coverage, you may be eligible for care through the VA. To find out if you are, just go to, call 877-222-VETS, or visit your local VA facility in person.

If you are a veteran who isn't eligible VA coverage, or if you're an uninsured family member of a veteran, starting October 1st, you and your family can get coverage that fits your needs and your budget -- no matter how much money you make -- through the Health Insurance Marketplace at There, you'll find a range of insurance options, lined up side-by-side so you can compare what each plan covers and how much it costs. Then, you simply choose the plan that works best for you and your family -- and coverage begins as soon as January 1st. It's your health, made simple.

Depending on your income, you may be eligible for discounts on your monthly premiums; people with the lowest incomes may be eligible for free coverage. And the majority of people without insurance today will be able to find a plan for under $100 a month.

Once you get yourself signed up for insurance, make sure everyone you know gets signed up, too. Talk to your friends, your cousins, your neighbors, and especially the young people in your lives. Send them to those websites, and bug them until they sign up, because everyone in this country -- especially families like yours who have given us so much -- deserves the security of knowing that you'll have health care when you need it.

Dr. Jill Biden Welcomes Home the Delaware National Guard’s 153rd Military Police Company

Dr. Jill Biden wrote a blog post on her participation in the Delaware National Guard's 153rd Military Police Company's homecoming ceremony. You can read it below, or click here to read the blog post.

On Saturday, September 28, it was my incredible honor to participate in the homecoming ceremony for the Delaware National Guard’s 153rd Military Police Company. Having been there when they deployed nine months ago, it was especially meaningful to be able to welcome them home. At their deployment in January, I congratulated one Guardsman and his wife on the New Year’s Day birth of their daughter. On Saturday, I was thrilled to meet in person their little nine-month-old girl and hug her mom.

As the mother of a Delaware National Guardsman who deployed to Iraq for a year, I know well what these families go through while their loved ones are away. The year my son Beau was in Iraq, not a day passed when I didn’t wonder what he was doing and worry about his safety.

As I said to the men and women of the 153rd, this was a welcome home not just to them, but also to their families who serve right alongside our men and women in uniform. During the 153rd’s nine-month deployment, eight babies celebrated their first birthday while their dads were overseas. Three service members missed their first wedding anniversary. School plays, birthday parties, and graduations all had empty seats as family members served overseas. But I also know the feeling of happiness from being a proud mother when our service members return home, which is why I was thrilled to take part in Saturday’s ceremony.

The members of the 153rd have a lot of time to make up. And while they are transitioning back, I want them to know that the American people will be there for them every step of the way.

That’s part of why the First Lady and I started Joining Forces, our initiative to encourage all Americans to support our troops and military families before, during, and after deployment. As more and more of our men and women in uniform come home, it is more important than ever that we as Americans show our support for those who have served and for their families who have sacrificed so much.

Seeing all of the "Welcome Home Daddy” signs on Saturday and watching families reunite with their loved ones is a reminder of that sacrifice and our incredible debt to the men, women, and their families who serve.

Dr. Jill Biden greets members of the USO after a homecoming ceremony for members of the 153rd Military Police Company, at the Governor Bacon Parade gr

Dr. Jill Biden greets members of the USO after a homecoming ceremony for members of the 153rd Military Police Company, at the Governor Bacon Parade grounds in Delaware City, Delaware, Sept. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

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