A new bill would shift the burden of VA's over-payments off the shoulders of veterans.

Photo by John Fitzhugh/Biloxi Sun Herald

New legislation protects veterans when overpaid by VA

March 21, 2019 - 12:15 pm

Mistakes happen. 

Like, when the VA accidentally overpays veterans for benefits they've earned. 

But who should pay for those accounting errors and mismanagement? A bipartisan mix of senators say the VA should eat the loss, and not pass it on to those who did nothing wrong. 

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Veterans Debt Fairness Act on Wednesday to reduce overpayments, and require the VA to shoulder the burden when they occur, not veterans.

Around 200,000 overpayment notices are sent every year, the senators said. 

"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."

VA overpayments are on the rise, according to the senators, with some payment periods stretching back five years. Under current law, the VA can send out repayment notices demanding payment in full within 30 days and freeze benefit payments until debts are repaid. 

Boozman added that veterans “shouldn’t be penalized for the department’s accounting mistakes.” 

"Supporting veterans and their families by eliminating the potential for hardships caused by the VA's errors is important to honoring our commitment to their service and sacrifice,” said Boozman. 

The bill would require the VA to allow veterans to update their own information, including beneficiaries, which, the lawmakers say, will eliminate a root cause of overpayments. 

The legislation also calls for the Department to offer debt notification online, and to provide information on how to appeal the debt notice. It would also place a 5-year backlog time limit and limit no more than 25 percent of a benefits check each month. 

Brown said, “veterans sacrifice so much already to serve our country.” 

“They shouldn’t be paying for the mistakes of the agency that’s supposed to serve them,” he said. 

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