White House officials highlighted recent improvements in veterans’ benefits eligibility as part of the annual federal proclamation of Veterans Day, calling the changes part of the “sacred obligation” America has to its former service members.

“Fulfilling our nation’s promise to our veterans and military families, caregivers and survivors is not only a moral imperative — it is crucial to our national security and to maintaining the finest military the world has ever known,” President Joe Biden wrote in the document, released two days before national Veterans Day celebrations. “We are a nation that keeps our promises.”

Atop that list was the announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs in August to begin granting presumptive status for veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking disability benefits for toxic exposure illnesses, including respiratory problems from burn pit smoke.

In the Whtie House message, Biden said that in coming months “we are committed to taking additional action to address potential adverse health effects associated with military environmental exposures.”

The proclamation also notes the work of the newly established Joining Forces initiative, first launched during President Barack Obama’s administration and recently resumed by Biden.

“Through the First Lady’s work with Joining Forces … my administration is addressing employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran child education, and health and well-being for veteran families,” Biden wrote. “These efforts will honor our sacred obligation to support our veteran families and ensure they receive the resources they need to thrive.”

White House officials also noted their new roadmap to prevent veteran and military suicide, saying the plan will “unite us around a common mission and accelerate meaningful improvements in suicide prevention programs.”

Biden and other top administration officials are expected to take part in a series of veterans events this week in connection with the holiday.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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