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New veterans' benefits outlined in Senate bill

NAELA National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. MEMBER

July's Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2013 is set to heighten many of the benefits that military veterans and their families in New Jersey and across the country enjoy. The bill, which was approved by the U.S. Senate and awaits public release pending further review by the Congressional Budget Office and legal teams, encompasses a broad range of provisions. These were taken from over 30 individual laws that were proposed in the Senate earlier this year.

Many of the new benefits will go into effect for upcoming veterans and sexual trauma victims, but a number target survivors and the elderly. It is as yet unclear how the new bill will affect pension benefits for veterans themselves, but it does lower the age at which surviving spouses can remarry without losing eligibility for specific benefits such as home loans, medical care, indemnity payouts and dependency. In addition, surviving spouses can take advantage of education benefits such as the Fry Scholarship, which was formerly limited to surviving children.

Another important change included in the bill allows for expanded chiropractic health services at VA hospitals. In addition, a new two-year test program designed to improve veterans' health will provide vets who live far away from VA facilities with funds for fitness club memberships.

Other changes included in the law provide additional benefits and preferential treatment for vets who own businesses. Because the new bill has not been released, however, it's uncertain whether common benefits like disability payouts, service-related injury percentages and medical compensation will increase. The families of many elderly veterans may need to seek additional legal assistance in order to maximize their benefits. An elder law attorney may assist with filing the applications for certain benefits and programs and ensure that vets' rights are respected throughout the process.

Source: Military Times, "Senate panel votes for sweeping improvements to vets' benefits", Rick Maze, July 25, 2013

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