iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Given all the problems now associated with the Veteran Affairs Department, it’s no wonder that most veterans give the agency poor marks when it comes to receiving medical care.

A new Gallup poll reveals that 55 percent of veterans said accessing service from the VA was either “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult,” while 30 percent said it was “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to get the attention they need.

Not surprisingly, how veterans voted politically influenced their perceptions of the VA, with more Democrats than Republicans claiming that service was not difficult to access.

However, the scandal involving wait times and alleged doctoring of records has definitely harmed the VA’s reputation.

Sixty percent of veterans say it makes them less likely to trust the VA, while about a third claim the scandal has no effect on their views of the VA.

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Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — A federal judge struck down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday, staying the ruling until an appeals court can make a judgement.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In deeming that arguments for the ban were, “not those of serious people,” Heyburn’s decision comes after he ruled back in February that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, The Courier-Journal reports.

Heyburn’s ruling is the latest in a string of decisions in which federal judges have struck down laws that previously prohibited same-sex marriage.

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Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf claimed Tuesday that the first meeting of the Iraqi parliament on Monday was a good sign — despite walkouts and finger-pointing — with Hard noting that “democracy is messy at times.”

Still, Harf said, the U.S. is encouraged by the fact that the new Iraqi lawmakers convened a meeting at all. The acting speaker of the parliament also set a date for a second meeting, July 8. Still, the parliament failed to name a new speaker.

“It was important that Iraq’s new parliament convened today, as they pledged to do,” Harf added. “That was a good thing. But we do hope that Iraq’s leaders will move forward with the extreme urgency that the current situation deserves.”

The U.S. hopes that the July 8 meeting will feature the presentation of candidates for the position of speaker and two deputy prime minister spots. The parliament will also have to select candidates for president and prime minister.

“I feel like anything that happened today, people would have talked about in a negative way,” Harf said Tuesday. She also noted that Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. had wanted Iraq to start forming a government by Tuesday, but that there is no specific deadline for that.

The political maneuvering comes as violence continues to shake the country, and the Islamic terrorist group ISIS continues its bloody campaign to establish a foothold in Iraq and neighboring countries.

At least 2,417 Iraqis died in violence in June, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq — 1,531 civilians, including 270 police officers have been killed, along with an estimated 886 members of the Iraqi security forces.

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US State Department(LONDON) — American Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matthew Barzun made a wager with his Belgian counterpart on Tuesday over the U.S.-Belgium World Cup match.

According to a photo posted to Barzun’s Twitter account, the losing team’s ambassador will cook their own country’s style of waffles for the winning team’s embassy.

“Since we are both soccer (football) fans and our two countries’ teams face each other tonight in the World Cup, I thought I would offer up a friendly wager,” Barzun wrote in the letter.

Soon to be game time – Thought I would raise the stakes #USA vs. #BEL pic.twitter.com/uv2uUqOggO

— Matthew Barzun (@MatthewBarzun) July 1, 2014

Barzun closed his letter to Belgian ambassador Guy Trouveroy offering his opponent the, “best of luck and may the best team win.” He did, however, add one final line, echoing the U.S. team’s chant, stating matter of factly, “…but I believe, I believe that we will win!”

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama made good on a promise from last year’s sequester to donate about five percent of his salary to the Treasury, and the documentation of the last of seven $2,858 checks was posted on the Department of the Treasury’s blog on Tuesday.

The checks, totalling just over $20,000, were cut between April 2013 and September 2013.

The President’s salary was exempted from sequester cuts. However, during the budget battle, Obama showed solidarity with federal workers who were subject to furloughs and reduced pay as a result of the sequester by giving back a portion of his salary.

The Treasury released documentation on the first three checks last year.

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The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama called on the Republicans in Congress to show some “economic patriotism” on Tuesday, asking the lawmakers to close a corporate tax loophole that has put the Highway Trust Fund in a precarious financial position.

Standing next to Washington’s Key Bridge, Obama talked about the how the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for infrastructure projects including roads, bridges and trains, will run out if Congress doesn’t act by the end of the summer. There “won’t be any money there,” Obama said, adding that the situation could put 700,000 jobs at risk next year.

“We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done, as one nation and as one people,” the president said on Tuesday. However, he pointed out, “Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.”

Despite the political — and potentially literal — gridlock, Obama said he would continue to sign executive orders to help the middle class, joking that Republican lawmakers can “sue me,” days after House Speaker John Boehner did just that. “As long as they’re doing nothing,” Obama said, “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

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Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Call it a primary season plot twist for the Duck Dynasty clan.

Although he’s now running against the “kissing Congressman” for Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District seat, Duck Dynasty relative Zach Dasher wants to keep his GOP primary campaign about “ideas, and not people.”

“This race is not about personality,” Dasher said. “We need to be discussing ideas, and not people.”

Rep. Vance McAllister, who became known as the “kissing Congressman” after leaked video footage from his district office showed his kissing a married staffer, said in April that he would not seek re-election.

But the incumbent reversed that decision on Monday, setting up a showdown between the freshman lawmaker, who was endorsed by Duck Dynasty stars Phil and Willie Robertson in his 2013 race, and Dasher, a 36-year-old businessman whose mother is Phil Robertson’s sister.

While McAllister has been criticized by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for his change of heart, Dasher said the decision to run is “between Vance and his family,” and “not for me to decide.”

“What someone does in terms of moral lapses; that’s between them, God and their family,” he said.

“Every citizen has a right to voice their opinion about [McAllister], including Governor Jindal,” Dasher added. “If we get caught up with all of this, we detract from the larger point, which is a federal government which is out of control.”

The big question remaining in the district that’s home to Duck Dynasty is whom members of Monroe, Louisiana’s first family will support.

According to Dasher, nothing has changed since he first told ABC News he expects “110 percent” support from his relatives.

“I’ve spoken with all of them, they’re going to be on the trail with me,” Dasher said. “Since they’re behind me 110 percent, there’s no support left for anyone else.”

Dasher told ABC News in June that McAllister’s initial decision had “piqued” his interest in what was then an open seat.

Dasher and the handful of others who have announced bids for McAllister’s seat now face a tougher race with the congressman back in the ring: In 2012, roughly 90 percent of House incumbents won re-election.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The annual list of who makes what at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is out.

Since 1995, it’s been a requirement for the White House to alert Congress of the salary of presidential staffers. The latest list can be accessed here.

Cost of living in Washington, D.C. is about 22 percent higher than the national average, with the annual income around $45,000 compared to $28,000 nationally, according to the latest census.

Here’s a look at what the 457-employees of President Obama (who makes an annual salary of $400,000 as set by Congress) rake in every year:

$172,200: 22 of Obama’s staff make the “big bucks.” This salary goes to folks such as Senior Advisor Dan Pfieffer; Press Secretary Josh Earnest; Cecilia Muñoz Director of Domestic Policy Council; and Counselor to the President John Podesta. All of these folks also have title of “assistant to the president.” And none of them have received a raise since Obama took office and a freeze went into effect during the recession.

$158,500: Deputy Assistants to the president are next — and they too have not received a raise in years. Twelve of his staffers make this salary.

$75,500: Travel office star Ashley Tate-Gilmore makes about average for her role as the Director of Travel for the White House. According the Department of Labor Statistics, meeting, convention and event planners average around 73,000 nationally. Tate-Gilmore’s duties include managing all White House travel, including airplane charters, hotel bookings and staff movements.

$70,700: The first lady’s staff doesn’t make much by comparison. Joanna Rosholm, who serves as press secretary to Michelle Obama makes less than half of the president’s press secretary.

$42,420: Our friends in lower press — those wranglers — who escort the White House Press Corp around make the lowest. They are responsible for taking networks into events, managing the media and received their first pay increase since Obama took office this year — a 1 percent raise was issued for all of the federal government this year under an Executive Order signed by the president in December.

A White House official tells ABC News that most employees making under $100,000 were eligible for the raise. A handful of historically retained employees (that stay on from administration to administration) making over $100,000 were also eligible. But the overall pay freeze is still in effect for White House staff.

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama joked Monday night at a LGBT event that the White House pastry chef’s pies are so good — well, they must have crack cocaine in them. But first lady Michelle Obama had no taste for the president’s not-so wisecrack.

Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

THE PRESIDENT: He’s — this is the problem. We call Bill [Yosses] the “Crustmaster” because his pies — I don’t know what he does, whether he puts crack in them, or …

THE FIRST LADY: No, he doesn’t. There is no crack in our pies.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m just saying that when we first came to the White House, I don’t know if some of you remember this — the first year, like, my cholesterol shot up. And the doctor was like, what happened? You had like this really low cholesterol. You were really healthy. And I thought, it’s the pie. It’s the pie. So we had to establish like a really firm rule about no pie during the week.

Executive pastry Chef Bill Yosses said in March that he would be leaving the White House in June to move back to New York where he will give up his sweet ways for a healthier table.

Telling the New York Times “it’s a bittersweet decision,” he plans to teach children and adults about eating better.

Yosses first came to the White House under President George W. Bush in 2007.

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Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — For years, Americans have been skeptical about whether the president and Congress really have their best interests at heart while the Supreme Court has appeared to keep their trust.

That can’t be said any longer, according to a new Gallup poll.

Americans’ faith in the high court has sunk to a new low with just three in ten now having confidence in the judicial branch.

It’s a far cry from 1988 when 56 percent said they had confidence in the Supreme Court. However, it’s been a slow, steady decline since then. In the last poll two years ago, 37 percent viewed the high court in a positive light.

As usual, Congress takes the biggest hit with a mere seven percent of respondents in the Gallup poll expressing confidence in D.C. lawmakers, a record low.

Meanwhile, President Obama has also seen his numbers tumble since first taking office in 2009 with just 29 percent expressing confidence in his performance, his lowest numbers in six years.

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