The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

April 6, 2013

Veteran budget to increase

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s budget proposal will include nearly a 14 percent spending increase for the section of the Department of Veterans Affairs responsible for attacking a growing backlog of disability claims — a problem that officials warned is likely to worsen in coming months.

All told, the VA would see a 4 percent increase, to $63.5 billion, for such items as veterans’ medical care and research, technology and new construction. That does not include disability, pension and education benefits.

The president is also going to ask Congress, in his budget proposal next week, to make permanent tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans. The unemployment rate for veterans who have served since the onset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was 9.9 percent last year.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told reporters Friday that more money for the VA in tight budgetary times reflects Obama’s commitment to veterans.

Veterans receive disability compensation for injuries or illness incurred during their active military service. About 600,000 claims, or 70 percent, have been pending more than 125 days. That number has soared in recent years as more veterans have sought compensation and as the claims have become more complicated. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki also made it easier for veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War to get benefits, which caused the backlog to spike, starting in 2010.

McDonough said the White House was “taking a hard look” at a request to appoint a presidential commission to address the backlog, but meanwhile, Obama had instructed all agencies with experience in dealing with claims to help the VA.

“The president has made clear to us this is a national priority. Everybody who’s got expertise, experience to bring to this fight to support (Shinseki) is going to be expected to be there,” McDonough said.

Shinseki has set a goal of eliminating the backlog in 2015. But officials also cautioned that they could not say when the number of claims pending longer than 125 days would start to go down.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Questions linger year after bombs

    BOSTON — A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded....

    April 15, 2014

  • Feds abruptly end roundup

    Federal land managers abruptly ended the roundup of cattle on public land in southern Nevada owned by a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority, citing a “serious concern” for the safety of employees and the public....

    April 13, 2014

  • Calif. crash probe includes limiting bus fires

    ORLAND, Calif. — A new twist was added to the investigation of a crash involving a tour bus and FedEx tractor-trailer that killed 10 people when a couple said the big rig already was on fire when it careened across a median and sideswiped ...

    April 13, 2014

  • Disappointment, forgiveness mix in La.

    MONROE, La. — To Louisiana voters accustomed to tawdry scandals involving elected officials, disappointment with an eye toward forgiveness is the prevailing sentiment about their new congressman, caught on video embracing an aide married ...

    April 13, 2014

  • Uniformed men occupy Donetsk police HQ

    DONETSK, Ukraine — Men in the uniforms of Ukraine’s now-defunct riot police on Saturday occupied police headquarters in Donetsk, the eastern city that is one of the flashpoints of a wave of pro-Russia protests, hours after armed men seized ...

    April 13, 2014

  • Sebelius resigns after fiasco

    WASHINGTON — Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning as the White House seeks to move past the election-year political damage inflicted by the rocky rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health ...

    April 11, 2014

  • Colbert to replace Letterman

    NEW YORK — CBS moved swiftly Thursday to replace the retiring David Letterman with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who will take over the “Late Show” next year and do battle with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel for late-night television ...

    April 11, 2014

  • Republicans block bill curbing gender pay gap

    WASHINGTON — Republicans blocked a Senate bill Wednesday aimed at narrowing the pay gap between men and women, an election-year ritual that Democrats hope will help spur women to back them in this fall’s congressional elections....

    April 10, 2014

  • Sailing family back in U.S.

    SAN DIEGO — Six days after a family of four found themselves helpless and adrift in a sailboat far into the Pacific with a vomiting, feverish 1-year-old, a Navy warship delivered them safely Wednesday to San Diego, where they began their ...

    April 10, 2014

  • IMF: Economy is strengthening

    WASHINGTON — The global economy is strengthening but faces threats from super-low inflation and outflows of capital from emerging economies, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday. The lending organization expects the global ...

    April 9, 2014