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

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.