March 22, 2016

Wyden Gets “Drill Pay” Results for Guardsmen and Reservists

Change ends the fear of “being walloped by a sudden crushing debt”

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today announced the VA will offer relief from an unfair hardship for National Guardsmen and Reservists in Oregon, in response to a request by Wyden earlier this year.

The change by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helps Guardsmen and Reservists nationwide who, because of paperwork delays at the VA, were unexpectedly having their VA benefit checks interrupted for an unreasonable period of time.

“I am gratified that the VA has sliced through the red tape to treat our nation’s servicemen and servicewomen with the fairness they deserve,” Wyden said. “This commonsense solution means that Americans depending on VA compensation or drill pay can replace the fear of being walloped by a sudden crushing debt with the certainty that they will have a reasonable repayment schedule.”

Guardsmen and Reservists who qualify for veterans benefits can collect both VA monthly compensation and their Reserve or National Guard paycheck, also known as drill pay – just not for the same days. Following an annual audit, VA notifies each veteran of its ‘adjustment’ proposal to withhold the overlapping benefits, reflecting the number of days – either active or part-time – that the veteran served during the previous fiscal year.

In the past, as Wyden noted in his Jan. 26 letter to the VA, Guardsmen and Reservists would promptly return each year’s required drill pay adjustment paperwork, but have it languish with the VA. The result far too often was the VA processing several years’ worth of drill pay adjustments at the same time—notifying the unsuspecting Guardsman or Reservist that the VA will soon begin withholding multiple years’ worth of payments.

The resolution detailed by the VA would allow Guardsmen and Reservists to instead go on a manageable repayment schedule, saying in its response letter to Wyden that the “VA shares your concern that our current process causes undue hardship for some Veterans and their families. We have therefore modified our procedures for drill-pay adjustments to ensure that Veterans are given the opportunity to mitigate any hardships resulting from the pay adjustments.”

The Oregon County Veteran Service Officers Association (OCVSOA) credited the policy change to Wyden’s strong advocacy for veterans, thousands of whom have had their VA disability payments abruptly cut off when the VA recoups their drill pay, sometimes years after the member has been discharged from service. 

"Through our work on the front line with veterans, the Oregon County Veteran Service Officers saw issues with the handling of some pay and benefit issues for drilling National Guard and Reserve veterans,” said Joseph Reiley, Past-President of the OCSVOA. “Thanks to Senator Wyden's efforts, the problem is fixed nationwide and we can now look forward to helping our citizen-soldiers resolve these issues just like every other veteran."