Legislation recently introduced would protect veterans from overpayment debt from errors made by the Veterans Affairs Department regarding monthly benefits. Congressman John Delaney (D-Md.) introduced the bill, known as the Veteran Debt Fairness Act (H.R. 7144). Jon Tester (D-Mt.) introduced a similar legislation in the Senate earlier this year (S. 2341).
Veterans are currently subject to incurring unexpected expenses if the VA inadvertently issues overpayments on their monthly benefits. This is at no fault of the veteran. When this happens, the VA can withhold a veteran’s benefit, with no limitation, including monthly disability payments. The payments are not identified immediately because they are on an automatic monthly schedule, meaning larger debts accumulate over time. Delaney says this can lead to “undue hardships” for veterans.
“Our veterans have sacrificed enough for our nation,” he said. “The least we can do is ensure they don’t have their financial wellbeing threatened by other peoples’ errors. This is just one small way we can show our appreciation for their service and provide some certainty in their financial planning.”
This bill would require the VA to:
- Conduct audits to determine the frequency of VA errors resulting in overpayments and how vacancies at the Veterans Benefits Administration affect that;
- Provide veterans with a way to update dependency information of their own eliminating a common delay that can affect a veterans’ benefits; and
- Conduct a secondary review when the overpayment total is above $2,500 and creates an administrative 120-day process through which veterans can dispute debt.
It is recommended to save some of the money you receive from the VA in case an overpayment does occur so that you have enough to pay them back without incurring debt.