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Veterans dividends showing up early

Mind you, Guy Smith wasn't complaining when $241.20 arrived in the mail Monday from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 64-year-old St. Petersburg Beach retiree just wondered why the check showed up so early.

The money was an annual dividend from a $10,000 life insurance policy the government sold to GIs after the Korean War. In past years, the dividend arrived like clockwork in December.

So why did Smith's 1992 dividend arrive in February, 10 months ahead of time?

It turns out that Smith is not alone. More than 200,000 Florida veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War hold government life insurance policies. The dividends average about $400 and normally are paid on individual anniversaries .

This year, the Bush Administration decided to pay everyone by early February.

"Accelerating these payments means that veterans won't have to wait to get their dividends," VA Secretary Edward J. Derwinski stated in a press release. "More than half a billion dollars will be injected into the economy."

Smith, a registered Democrat who voted for Bush in 1988, wondered if the accelerated checks are designed to curry favor with veterans during this election year.

"I appreciate it. I can use the money," Smith said, adding that he tends to be a little suspicious.

Asked about that Tuesday, VA spokesman William Layer said: "I can't make any comments about possible motives. I'm just a civil servant."