Obama pledges speedier service for veterans in Florida stop

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Disabled American Veterans' National Convention in Orlando. Credit: Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Disabled American Veterans’ National Convention in Orlando.
Credit: Reuters

President Barack Obama promised faster attention to a backlog of veterans’ disability claims and announced a new mental health initiative on Saturday during a stop in Florida before beginning a week-long vacation.

Traveling to Orlando with his wife, Michelle, Obama addressed a gathering of the Disabled American Veterans group.

He highlighted progress in reducing a huge number of outstanding veterans’ disability claims; the backlog has decreased by 20 percent from its high of 611,000 claims at the end of March.

“We are not where we need to be, but we are making progress,” Obama said. “We are not going to let up until we eliminate the backlog once and for all … After years of military service you shouldn’t have to wait for years for what you’ve earned.”

Obama ended the U.S. war in Iraq since coming into office and has pledged to wind down the war in Afghanistan by the end of next year. With big numbers of American troops coming home, services for veterans are in high demand, and the government has struggled to keep up.

The president warned that “reckless” budget cuts, known as the sequester, pose one of the biggest threats to veterans’ benefits.

“Congress needs to come together and agree on a responsible plan that reduces our deficit and keeps our promises to our veterans and keeps our promises to future generations,” he said.

Obama outlined several priorities he had set for veterans’ affairs, including ensuring that budgets were elevated, promised healthcare provided, homelessness reduced, and jobs and education benefits boosted.

He unveiled a new “action plan” on mental health research meant to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries.

The White House also repeated a call to permanently extend veterans-related tax credits, including one worth as much as $5,600 to companies that hire unemployed former military service members. That tax credit currently expires at the end of 2013.

Obama and the first lady have made military and veterans’ issues a top priority of their time in the White House. Earlier this week the president addressed a group of Marines and sailors at Camp Pendleton, California, and pressed for greater efforts to cut down on sexual assault in the armed services.

Though Obama does not have another presidential election in his future, Florida is a crucial battleground state for his fellow Democrats and the opposition Republicans. Veterans are an important voting bloc.

After the Florida stop, the Obamas begin their vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The week-long break comes ahead of looming budget battles in Washington and continued controversy over U.S. surveillance programs.

The president will receive regular national security briefings during his trip.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…