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Hoping to avoid any year 2000 computer problems, federal officials are mailing out benefit checks to veterans and Social Security beneficiaries early.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday that it always processes its paperwork a few days before the end of the month each month and that an estimated 4.5 million veterans and survivors should receive their benefits by the 30th of the month as usual.

But the department did process a small number of educational benefit payments a few days earlier than usual this month to avoid potential delays related to the Y2K computer bug.

Social Security's 44 million beneficiaries learned last week of the Social Security Administration's plans to do the same, for both the majority who receive electronic payments and those who still take mailed checks.

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