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UPDATE: VA sends letter to Veterans regarding debt caused by pension overpayment

November 27, 2023

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INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS

ST. PAUL, MN (USDVA) - The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs has mailed letters to Veterans explaining that their entitlement to pension benefits changed which created a debt due to an overpayment. However, as a result of a recent legislative change, cases are being reviewed to determine if further action may be taken to provide debt relief. Collection of this debt is temporarily suspended. If you have already made payments, the review will determine if a refund is warranted. The VA regrets the inconvenience this situation may have caused and look forward to providing you more information as appropriate.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

According to the VA, you are not required to take any action on the debt at this time. You will be notified of any further action required, if necessary, and the status of your debt when the review is completed.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU HAVE ALREADY TAKEN ACTION
  • A refund may be issued for payments or offsets applied to this account once the review is complete.
  • If your case has been previously decided, it will automatically be reviewed to assure you receive additional consideration for relief based upon implementation of the legislative changes.
  • If your case has not been decided, replies from VA will be withheld until the review process is completed.
WHOM TO CONTACT
  1. If you have questions, please call the Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648 from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.
    1. Translation services are available in over 200 languages and dialects
  2. Ask VA (AVA) athttps://ask.va.gov/. In AVA, please sign in to start your secure message. Select “Veterans Affairs – Debt” as the category and the subject that best relates to ensure proper routing.
  3. Veterans may also visit the Debt Portal at www.va.gov/manage-va-debt for account information.
  4. Please note, the Debt Management Center does not create debts. For information on why your pension debt was created, please contact the VA benefits hotline at 1-800-827-1000 or the National pension call center at 1-877-294-6380.
HOW TO MANAGE FINANCIAL STRESS

Taking care of your well-being, including your mental health, is essential. Everyone handles stress differently. Visit Mental Health Home (www.mentalhealth.va.gov)to learn more about mental health support. As a recipient of VA benefits, we want you to be aware of available resources intended to help you in making wise financial decisions. We encourage you to visit www.veteransbenefitsbanking.org, www.mymoney.gov and www.consumer.gov for helpful financial information.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 then press 1, or text 838255. To chat online visit veteranscrisisline.net.


PREVIOUSLY REPORTED INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS

WASHINGTON, D.C. (USDVA) — On November 3, 2023, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) temporarily suspended the collection of pension debts for low-income wartime Veterans and their survivors. This decision comes after a recent issue with income verification, which resulted in overpayments to beneficiaries, causing hardship for a vulnerable group of Veterans and survivors.

VA provides pension payments to wartime Veterans of low income and their survivors. These payments are based on income level, which is self-reported by the Veteran or family member who receives the payments. In addition to this self-reporting, VA has traditionally verified the recipients’ self-reported income using data matching.

Between 2011 and 2022, due to discrepancies in data matching, VA was unable to reliably verify the self-reported social security income of Veterans and survivors receiving pensions. When income verification resumed in July 2022, roughly 9,900 beneficiaries were determined to have higher income levels than self-reported. This resulted in VA pension overpayments, which in some cases spanned many years.

Many of these Veterans and survivors are elderly, and all are low-income, so these debts represent a significant hardship, the department’s statement said. Recognizing the hardship and distress that these pension debts may cause, VA has paused the collection of all established pension debts and the establishment of new pension debts while we determine the path forward.

As legally required, VA established debts for these Veterans and survivors – meaning that VA determined that the amount of the overpayments was due back to VA. There are also approximately 30,000 additional Veterans and survivors who may have pension debts that have not yet been established. Many of these Veterans and survivors are elderly, and all are low-income, so these debts represent a significant hardship.

Officials plan on contacting the Veterans and survivors in coming weeks to explain the situation and provide as much pension debt relief as possible. Additionally, to prevent issues like this from happening in the future, VA will be conducting a review to understand why the data discrepancies occurred and why it took so long to address.

The VA has issued an apology to affected Veterans and their survivors for any distress that these pension debt notifications may have caused. For questions about debt management, the VA encourages affected Veterans and survivors to visit their debt management website or call them at 800-827-0648.