Legislation has been reintroduced in Congress that would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from having to pay back money they got as a result of the agency overpaying them.
The Veterans Debt Fairness Act (S. 805) requires the VA to shoulder the debt burden of overpayments if the agency was responsible for the mistakes leading to the overpayments. It is was introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and has 8 co-sponsors as of the time of this writing. It was last introduced in the fall but failed to advance.
“It’s wrong to put the debt from the VA’s accounting mistakes on the shoulders of men and women who have served their country,” said Tester. “For some veterans, these benefits make the difference between paying monthly rent or missing payments, and we’ve got to stop the VA from pulling the rug out from under veterans and their families.”
According to Tester, VA benefit overpayment notices have been steadily increasing, sometimes for a payment period dating back as far as five years. Currently, the VA can send out debt repayment notices to veterans requesting the full amount due within 30 days while freezing all benefit payments until the debt is repaid.
The bill would also require the VA to update its computer systems so veterans can update their own information regarding their beneficiaries, eliminating a key cause of overpayments.
Under their bill, the VA would be required to offer electronic notification of debt notices, including information on how to file appeals and hardship waivers. Debt collection would have to adhere to a 5-year backlog time limit and no more than 25% withholding of benefit payments.