POLITICS

Budget calls for 4 percent spending increase at VA

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama will propose increasing discretionary spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs by 4 percent with much of the additional money going to attack a backlog of pending disability claims that officials acknowledge could get worse before it gets better.

The president is also going to ask Congress to make permanent tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans. The unemployment rate for veterans who have served since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began continues to exceed the national average.

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

About 600,000 disability claims have been pending more than 125 days. McDonough said reducing that number is atop the White House's priority list.

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