Veterans who are accidentally overpaid VA benefits would not be charged for the agency’s mistakes under a proposed law.
By some estimates, as many as 200,000 veterans were mistakenly overpaid benefits and some were forced into debt when the VA demanded repayment all at once.
Legislation sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown would ban the VA from charging veterans for its own mistaken accounting.
“Our veterans deal with enough stress already,” Brown said.
Brown’s proposal would require the VA to track overpayments to veterans and to verify whether the agency is at fault and whether the veteran has disputed the debt collection effort. The legislation passed the Senate this week.
“Dean”, a Columbus area veteran who asked that we not use his last name, says he was overpaid college tuition benefits after he was forced to withdraw from classes for medical reasons. He says he notified the VA of his change in status.
“And then 6 months later I get a letter in the mail saying you owe us $3600 with no explanation for what or why.”
Dean says the VA wanted repayment of tuition that was paid to a local college as well as the monthly living allowance he had received. He says he provided additional documentation to the agency but that the VA placed him in a default status and started withholding his monthly disability payments.
“You don’t really know that’s happened until suddenly you’re not getting the money you depend on to pay your bills and then it’s a scramble to try to figure out what’s going on,” the veteran said. “In my case, I pretty much had to live off of credit cards for six months because I depended on that money and I’m actually still paying that credit card debt off despite the fact that the VA admitted it was their mistake.”
Brown says his bill would cap the amount the VA can deduct from a veteran’s monthly payment at 25 percent.
“They need to work out a schedule not to put the burden fully on the veteran who didn’t make the mistake in the first place,” Brown said.
In a statement, the VA tells NBC4 it is “constantly working to improve the benefits delivery processes” for veterans and their families. In fact, as of August 10, 2017, VA changed its overpayments collections policy so that Veterans are automatically placed into a 12-month recoupment plan, which provides significant financial relief in most cases. Prior to that, benefit recoupment was at 100 percent unless a payment agreement had been entered into.”