By Keith Laing
President Obama touted his controversial healthcare law in a speech to disabled veterans on Saturday.
"Online marketplaces will let you shop and compare and buy private health insurance plans, just like you can go online to compare prices when you buy a TV, or airplane ticket or a car," he continued. "And because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against you or deny you coverage."
Obama warned the disabled veterans to not be swayed by Republican attacks on his signature healthcare law.
"Don’t let them fool you," he said. "No one is taking away your benefits. Your veterans’ healthcare is safe. We’re not reducing veterans’ access to healthcare, we’re expanding it. That’s the truth."
Obama has tried in recent weeks to reframe debate about his healthcare law, which Republicans are still targeting for repeal three years after its initial passage. Critical pieces of the law are scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, causing both parties to seek to define the measure for voters ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Obama's comments came during a speech designed to spotlight the Obama administration’s efforts to improve conditions for members of the military who were injured in combat.
The president promised the disabled veterans that he would reduce the delays in processing their insurance claims. He admitted he has been unable to fulfill that promise in the past.
"The last time I was with you, I pledged to cut the backlog, slash those wait times, deliver your benefits sooner," Obama said. "And I’m going to be honest with you, it has not moved as fast as I wanted.
"Part of it is all these new veterans in the system who came in — Agent Orange, PTSD. It means a lot more claims, and despite additional resources, it’s resulted in longer waits. And that’s been unacceptable — unacceptable to me, unacceptable to [Department of Veterans Affairs] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki."
Obama said he "put more of our VA folks to work as claims processors" to help solve the backlog problem.
"We hired more claims processors as well," he said. "We’ve got them working overtime -- completing more than a million claims a year. We prioritized the oldest claims."
Obama also announced a new plan to guide mental health research, focusing on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“And to get it done, we’re moving ahead with more than $100 million in new research,” Obama said. “So I’m not going to be satisfied until every veteran and every man and woman in uniform gets the support and the help they need to stay strong.”
The president promised in his remarks Saturday that he would push companies to hire more veterans to reduce unemployment among former service members.
“We’re going to keep urging companies across America to do the smart thing — hire some of the best workers you’ll ever find; hire a vet,” Obama said. “We are going to get companies to understand that you can’t get a better deal than hiring a veteran.”
He praised the members of the association and said he would remain focused on the issues they face when they return from war.
“The road of recovery is often such a long haul," Obama said. "And America needs to be there for you during that long haul.”
—This story was first posted at 12:43 p.m. and last updated at 6:03 p.m.