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
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…