Veterans who are overpaid because the Department of Veterans Affairs made mistakes in calculating their benefits would garner some protection, under a measure now pending before Congress.
Co-sponsored by Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Md., and Dave Trott, R-Mich., the Veteran Debt Fairness Act would stop VA from collecting overpayments that resulted from VA error. In other instances, the amount VA could deduct from future monthly payments would be capped. This would ease the burden on veterans who are required to repay VA, because the agency typically recovers such overpayments through deductions from future paychecks.
The Senate is considering a comparable measure, sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Another provision of the bill would allow veterans on fixed incomes to explain to VA why deducting money from their checks for errors for which they are not responsible would present an undue hardship.
Should the bill become law, it would address a recurring problem. VA overpaid 238,000 veterans in 2016, according to a press release issued by Delaney’s office. Even though VA is taking steps to eliminate payment mistakes, present law and policy still mandate that veterans are responsible for repayments. If they do not discover the errors immediately, the amount they have to repay accumulates accordingly and exacerbates their financial situation, Delaney’s office stated.
Other provisions of the bill would require VA to:
* Conduct secondary reviews in cases where overpayment amounts exceed $2,500. Veterans would be offered a 120-day window to dispute the debt.
* Employ auditors to determine how often such overpayments occur, and the effect they are having on the vacancies at the Veterans Benefits Administration, the VA agency that handles such payments.
* Give veterans a better means of updating their dependency information. Mistakes in dependents are cited as frequent reasons why veterans are overpaid.