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President unveils initiatives for veterans

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President Barack Obama unveiled initiatives in education and health for war veterans, highlighting how his administration has reduced the backlog of veterans' long term disability insurance claims by 20%.

"We're turning the tide. We're not going to let up until we eliminate the backlog once and for all," Obama told a gathering of disabled veterans in Florida. However, the president also acknowledged the 20% dent isn't enough.

"I'm going to be honest with you. It has not moved as fast as I wanted," Obama said.

The president also spotlighted the growing suicide rate among veterans, toward which his administration increased spending for VA mental heath services by 7.2%, while the veterans agency has increased the capacity of its crisis line by 50%.

The White House announced a National Research Action Plan to reduce soldier suicides and treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Under the initiative, the VA, Pentagon and other federal agencies will share data to advance research. The University of Texas and Virginia Commonwealth University will receive $100 million from the VA and Defense Departments to research PTSD and the links between traumatic brain injury and mental health issues.

Obama also rolled out another initiative with 250 higher-education institutions to help war veterans complete their degrees.

Obama made his remarks in Orlando, Florida, before more than 3,000 people attending the annual convention of Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group deploring the up to two-year delays of processing disability claims and urging more mental health care for returning servicemen.

A recent report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that since Obama took office in 2009, the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits has skyrocketed.

The VA states that the average wait time after a veteran files a claim is 273 days. But for veterans filing their first claim, including Iraq and Afghanistan vets, the wait is up to 327 days, nearly two months longer. In big cities such as New York, veterans could wait for almost two years.

Returning from war as an injured veteran can be extremely challenging. An attorney who handles group disability insurance coverage and claims issues may help to make sure you as a veteran get the long term disability care you deserve.

Source:  CNN.COM, "Obama says backlog reduced in veterans' disability claims" Michael Martinez, Aug. 10, 2013