Last year the Department of Veterans Affairs sent overpayment notices to more than 180,000 American vets. According to VICE News, that represents about two percent of all vets receiving benefits. “The VA said it could not provide any estimates of how much it has overpaid veterans, nor could it provide figures on the average amount of debt veterans who receive overpayment notices may owe”, VICE News says.
Because these veterans have been notified that their benefits will be withheld until they have repaid the overpayments, the impact for many individual vets could be devastating — driving some into bankruptcy. The VA told VICE News “there is no limit on how much it can ask a vet to repay and no limit on how far back the agency is willing to go to collect overpayment debts.”
Further frustrating them, many veterans hit with the overpayment notices say the VA has not provided detailed accounting of the debts, nor answered their questions and the whole debt-collection process is a “one-sided conversation”. VICE News reported that “one veteran said he received a notice of the hearing date for his appeal more than a month after the meeting had already been held. Without more information, veterans can’t know if they’re really at fault in these cases, or if the overpayment resulted from an error on the VA’s part.”
“The VA declined to comment on any of the concerns veterans have raised about the debt collection process,” VICE News says. “A spokesman provided a statement saying the Debt Management Center ‘hires and trains its contact center counselors to ensure that debts are collected with the special situations veterans face in mind. In fact, 39 percent of DMC employees are veterans. DMC employees provide caring and compassionate service to veterans — even working with them to design repayment plans to reduce financial hardship, while also ensuring that taxpayer interests and dollars are also protected.’ But…conversations with other veterans, family members, advocates, and lawmakers suggest the agency is inclined to demand payment first and answer questions much later, if at all.”
(VICE News, a nightly news program produced by digital media company VICE Media and telecast on HBO, focuses on topics ranging from U.S. politics and national security to technology and the environment.)