In an address at the Disabled American Veterans' convention in Orlando, Obama also announced a national plan to guide mental health research, as well as commitments from 250 community colleges and universities to help veterans earn college degrees or get the credentials they need to find jobs.
A chief concern for veterans is the backlog of disability claims for compensation for illness and injury caused by military service.
"After years of military service, you shouldn't have to wait years for the benefits you've earned," Obama said.
The number of claims ballooned after Obama made it easier for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange to get benefits. Access to benefits also was eased for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and Gulf War veterans afflicted with malaria, West Nile virus or other infectious diseases.
The backlog is shrinking due to some aggressive steps taken by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including requiring claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices to work overtime and moving from a manual to a computerized system to help speed the judgment of claims, administration officials said.
About 780,000 claims are pending. About 496,000 are considered backlogged after the 20 percent reduction Obama highlighted, down from 611,000 at the end of March, said White House press secretary Jay Carney. A claim is considered backlogged if it has been in the system for 125 days, or roughly four months.
Even with that progress, Obama acknowledged the amount of work still needed to eliminate the backup by 2015 as VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has promised.
"Today I can report that we are not where we need to be, but we are making progress," Obama said. "So after years when the backlog kept growing, finally the backlog is shrinking."
The president also announced the release of a comprehensive national plan to improve the ability to prevent, diagnose and treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries and mental health issues earlier and better, and to reduce suicides, according to a briefing paper the White House released Saturday before the president spoke.
Beyond the claims issue, Republican lawmakers have started to hammer the VA on the issue of patient safety.
A congressional hearing in Atlanta this past week focused on poor patient care linked to four deaths. Another hearing is scheduled for next month in Pittsburgh, where five veterans died as a result of a Legionnaire's disease outbreak in 2011-12.
Several dozen protesters greeted Obama as he arrived at the hotel. Some held signs that said "Kenyan Go Home," "Impeach Obama," and "Obama Lies."
Obama met privately with DAV members before the speech, the White House said. Afterward, he headed to Martha's Vineyard, Mass., for a family vacation.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
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It's possible that labor-inducing drugs might increase the risk - or that the problems that lead doctors to start labor explain the results. These include mothers' diabetes and fetal complications, which have previously been linked with autism.
Like most research into autism causes, the study doesn't provide conclusive answers, and the authors say the results shouldn't lead doctors to avoid inducing labor or speeding it up since it can be life-saving for mothers and babies.
Simon Gregory, lead author and an associate professor of medicine and medical genetics at Duke University, emphasized, "We haven't found a connection for cause and effect. One of the things we need to look at is why they were being induced in the first place."
Government data suggest 1 in 5 U.S. women have labor induced - twice as many as in 1990.
Smaller studies suggested a possible tie between induced labor and autism, but the new research is the largest to date, involving more than 600,000 births. The government-funded study was published online Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
The researchers examined eight years of North Carolina birth records, and matched 625,042 births with public school data from the late 1990s through 2008. Information on autism diagnoses didn't specify whether cases were mild or severe. Labor was induced or hastened in more than 170,000 births.
Overall, 5,648 children developed autism - three times as many boys as girls. Among autistic boys, almost one-third of the mothers had labor started or hastened, versus almost 29 percent of the boys without autism. The differences were less pronounced among girls.
Oxytocin and prostaglandins are used to start or speed up labor but the study doesn't identify specific medications.
The strongest risks were in boys whose mothers had labor started and hastened. They were 35 percent more likely to have autism.
Among girls, autism was not tied to induced labor; it was only more common in those born after labor was accelerated; they were 18 percent more likely to have the developmental disorder than girls whose mothers had neither treatment.
Autism affects about 1 in 88 U.S. children. Symptoms may involve communication problems including avoiding eye contact and unusual repetitive behavior including arm-flapping. Causes are uncertain but experts believe it probably results from a combination of genetics and other factors. These may include mothers' illnesses and medication use while pregnant, fathers' age at conception, and problems affecting the fetus during childbirth - all suggested but not proven in previous research.
The study's biggest strength is bolstering the growing consensus that risks for autism occur before birth or soon after, said Dr. Byron King, director of Seattle Children's Hospital's autism center. He was not involved in the study.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -- Equipped with a two-shot lead at the turn, still carrying a few scars from his PGA Championship collapse two years ago, Jason Dufner never showed signs of cracking.
No one expected anything else from a player whose popularity comes from his flat-line personality.
He merely waved to the gallery when he shot 63 in the second round to tie a major championship record. He didn't show much of a pulse Sunday as he matched scores with Jim Furyk at every hole on the back nine of Oak Hill. Only after Dufner tapped in for a bogey on the 18th hole to win the PGA Championship did he crack a smile, raise both arms and give a slight pump of the fist, saving all that emotion for a grand occasion.
Dufner can't think of any other athlete who plays with so little emotion.
"But those sports are a little more exciting - big plays in basketball, home runs in baseball, big plays in football. That will get you pumped up," he said. "For me, golf is a little bit more boring. I hit it in the fairway or I didn't. Usually I'm struggling with the putter, so there's not too much to get excited about with that."
His name on the Wanamaker Trophy?
That was worth a smile.
"Nobody can take that away from me," Dufner said after he closed with a 2-under 68 for a two-shot win over Furyk. "It's a great accomplishment for me, and I'm really excited about it."
Dufner wasn't sure he would get another chance after the PGA Championship two years ago in Atlanta, where he blew a four-shot lead with four holes to play and lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. But he wasn't about to let this one get away. Dufner won by playing a brand of golf that matches the bland expression on his face.
It wasn't exciting. It didn't need to be.
Dufner finished the front nine with six straight one-putt greens, and then delivered a steady diet of fairways and greens. He putted for birdie on every hole on the back nine until the last hole. He calmly rolled a 10-foot par putt toward the cup and tapped it in.
"There's not much to celebrate from 6 inches or less, but it was nice to have that short of a putt," he said. "It was a perfect ending for me."
The turning point at Oak Hill was the final two holes - on the front nine.
Dufner made a short birdie on the eighth hole to take a one-shot lead, and Furyk made bogey on the ninth hole to fall two shots behind. Furyk, a 54-hole leader for the second time in as many years in a major, couldn't make up any ground with a procession of pars along the back nine. He finally made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th, but only after Dufner spun back a wedge to 18 inches for a sure birdie.
Furyk also made bogey on the last two holes, taking two chips to reach the 17th green and coming up short into mangled rough short of the 18th green, where all he could do was hack it onto the green. Furyk closed with a 71 to finish two shots behind.
"I have a lot of respect for him and the way he played today," Furyk said. "I don't know if it makes anything easy, or less easy. But I don't look at it as I lost the golf tournament. I look at it as I got beat by somebody that played better today."
Dufner finished at 10-under 270, four shots better than the lowest score in the five previous majors at Oak Hill. Jack Nicklaus won the 1980 PGA Championship at 274.
Henrik Stenson, trying to become the first Swede to win a men's major title, pulled within two shots on the 13th hole and was poised to make a run until his tee shot settled on a divot hole in the 14th fairway. He chunked that flip wedge into a bunker and made bogey and closed with a 70 to finish alone in third. In his last three tournaments - two majors and a World Golf Championship - Stenson has two runner-ups and a third.
Jonas Blixt, another Swede, also had a 70 and finished fourth. Masters champion Adam Scott never made a serious of move and shot 70 to tie for fifth. Defending champion Rory McIlroy made triple bogey on the fifth hole to lose hope, those he still closed with a 70 and tied for eighth, his first top 10 in a major this year.
Dufner two-putted for bogey on the 18th from about 10 feet and shook hands with Furyk as if he had just completed a business deal. He hugged his wife, Amanda, and gave her a love tap on the tush with the cameras rolling.
Asked if he had ever been nervous, she replied, "If he has been, he's never told me."
That's what gives Dufner is own personality on the PGA Tour. He didn't look any differently on the opening tee shot than when he stood on the 18th hole.
"I would say I was pretty flat-lined for most of the day," he said.
Among the first to greet Dufner was Bradley, who beat him in the PGA playoff at Atlanta and was behind the "Dufnering" craze from earlier this year.
Dufner went to an elementary school in Dallas as part of a charity day as defending champion in the Byron Nelson Classic. A photo showed him slumped against the wall in the classroom next to the children, his eyes glazed over, as the teacher taught them about relaxation and concentration techniques. The pose was mimicked all over the country, giving Dufner some celebrity for his zombie appearance.
Now he's known for something far more important.
Dufner became the sixth player to win a major with a round of 63, joining Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Nicklaus and Johnny Miller.
He is the third first-time major champion of the year, and the 15th champion in the last 19 majors who had never won the big one. Woods is responsible for the latest trend, mainly because he's not winning them at the rate he once was.
Woods extended his drought to 18 majors without winning, and this time he wasn't even in the hunt. For the second straight round, Woods finished before the leaders even teed off. He closed with a 70 to tie for 40th, 14 shots out of the lead.
"I didn't give myself many looks and certainly didn't hit the ball good enough to be in it," Woods said.
Furyk wasn't about to beat himself up for another major opportunity that got away. He had a share of the lead at the U.S. Open last year until taking bogey on the par-5 16th hole with a poor tee shot. His only regret was not making par on the last two holes - the toughest on the back nine at Oak Hill - to put pressure on Dufner.
Not that anyone would have noticed.
"It probably hasn't hit me yet. I can't believe this is happening to me," Dufner said. "To come back from a couple of years ago in this championship when I lost to Keegan in a playoff, to win feels really, really good."