Wyden Co-sponsors Bill to Protect Veterans
Legislation would protect veterans from VA accounting mistakes
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden announced today he is co-sponsoring legislation that would protect veterans from paying for the VA's accounting mistakes.
The bill introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) follows a VICE news report that found overpayments from the VA have been on the rise since 2013. In 2016 alone, the VA issued upwards of 200,000 overpayment notices to veterans, often recouping funds by withholding some or all of a veteran's monthly disability benefit payments.
“Disabled veterans who have sacrificed so much and followed all the rules should not suddenly face devastating financial bills that unfairly punish them for an agency’s bookkeeping mistakes,” Wyden said. “This common-sense legislation will prevent the VA from recouping benefits in a way that generates financial hardships for veterans and their families when the VA is at fault for overpayments.’
The Veterans' Debt Fairness Act will address the root causes of VA overpayments and institute common-sense protections for veterans by:
- Only allowing the VA to collect debts that occur as a result of an error or fraud on the part of a veteran or their beneficiary.
- Requiring that the VA cannot deduct more than 25 percent from a veteran's monthly payment in order to recoup overpayment or debt. This amount may be further reduced if the deduction puts that veteran at risk of financial hardship, for example if the veteran is living on a fixed income.
- Preventing the VA from collecting debts incurred more than five years prior. Currently there is no time limit on how long after a payment a veteran can be billed.
- Requiring the VA to provide veterans with a way to update their dependency information on their own, eliminating a key processing delay for veterans, which frequently contributes to the VA making overpayments.
"The American Legion has worked hard to protect veterans who are involved in debt management and collection issues with the VA," said Denise Rohan, National Commander of the American Legion. "The American Legion representatives working at the VA Debt Management Center have helped thousands of veterans and surviving spouses avoid financial hardship. We are confident that this proposed legislation, as currently written, would afford important protections to veterans and their families who, through no fault of their own, have incurred VA-related debt. These protections are warranted and a symbol of the debt of gratitude our nation owes to those who have served. We look forward to the swift passage of this important legislation."
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