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Senate Passes VA Benefits Bill: The Senate approved a bill that would end a Civil-War era policy barring veterans from hiring lawyers to seek benefits unless they have exhausted the VA claims process. Veterans Affairs officials had tried to dissuade lawmakers from pursuing the legislation. If approved by the House, the bill (S. 2694) also would make changes to the Montgomery G.I. Bill, allowing for accelerated benefits for high-cost, short-term training for certain jobs. It also includes a provision to remove the “ashes of convicted double murderer Russell Wagner from Arlington National Cemetery,” according to a statement from Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.