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

NYC pension funds valued at $160b: Scott Stringer

The five NYC pension funds that thousands of city employees contribute to saw its fifth year in a row of increased returns, up $23 billion from last year.

Local

Man dies trapped in elevator shaft at Bronx…

A man in his twenties died after being trapped in an elevator shaft of a Bronx building early Monday, police said.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…