VA says it will pause debt collection, extend benefits deadlines during pandemic

Abbie Bennett
April 06, 2020 - 10:00 am
VA

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The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to pause debt collection from veterans and extend benefits deadlines during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The move is intended to provide relief to veterans during the crisis, VA officials said. It follows President Donald Trump's announcement that he had directed VA to do exactly that. Previously, members of Congress called on VA to postpone debt collection and provide flexibility for benefits claims. 

“As all Americans come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we want veterans to be focused on their health and safety,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “That’s why we’re taking action to give those with pending debts, claims and appeals greater flexibility during these challenging times.”

VA's specific plans include: 

  • Suspending all actions on veteran debts under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department;
  • Suspending all collection action, or extending repayment terms on pre-existing VA debts, based on the veteran's preference. 
  • Giving veterans the option to submit paperwork late for:
    • Perfecting claims;
    • Challenging adverse decisions;
    • Submitting "notices of disagreement;"
    • Submitting "substantive appeals;"
    • Responding to "supplemental statements of the case." 

Veterans who need claim extensions can submit them with any late-filed paperwork, according to VA, and do not have to request extensions in advance. 

VA also is accepting typed/digital signatures on its forms. 

For veterans diagnosed with COVID-19 who need immediate action on their appeals, as opposed to a filing extension, the Board of Veterans' Appeals will advance their appeal on the docket. For more information on that process, click here.

Veterans with benefit debt questions can call 1-800-827-0648.

Veterans with healthcare debt questions can call 1-888-827-4817. 

For claims extension questions, call 1-800-827-1000.

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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