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Veterans benefits still face problems

NAELA National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. MEMBER

Veterans in New Jersey who depend on services from the VA may have breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the government shutdown, but federal budget woes could continue to affect them. Veterans benefits and pensions will be paid for November, but civilian hiring and military training money is still frozen under the first-year sequestration cuts.

The armed forces still remain under pressure to contain military personnel costs. The most likely methods to bring this spending under control included putting caps on military pay raises through 2017 and pushing military retirees younger than 65 and with second careers to pay more in TRICARE fees. These moves would be in addition to making deeper cuts to active and reserve component forces and using a different method to adjust federal entitlements to inflation.

Officials in the Defense Department and on armed-services committees are hoping that Congress members working on budget conference committees can reach a deal large enough to avoid another year of budget sequestration. If the second sequester occurs, the armed forces would have to work with a budget that is 10 percent below the requested amount for 2014 and eight percent below its current operating budget.

Individuals who have served as a part of the armed forces are often eligible for more benefits than they realize. Those benefits can include service-related disability benefits, pension benefits or benefits for veterans' families. An attorney may be able to help veterans understand what benefits they are eligible for and may be able to help them pursue those benefits.

Source: NJ.com, "Military Update: End of shutdown does not solve all budget issues for Department of Defense", Tom Philpott, October 21, 2013

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