Representatives Pappas and Nehls Introduce Legislation to Protect Veterans from VA Payment Errors
Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), who serves as the Chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation with Congressman Troy Nehls (TX-22) to reform the VA’s debt collection process.
Pappas’s and Nehls’ legislation would fix VA’s debt collection process which generated and then collected $1.6 billion in debt from veterans in the last fiscal year. These overpayments are often the results of mistakes in disability payouts, changes in eligibility, or simple accounting errors which can lead to financial difficulties for hundreds of thousands of veterans, especially for those living on fixed incomes. The VA Beneficiary Debt Collection Improvement Act seeks to remedy these issues.
“With so many veterans already struggling to make ends meet in the wake of this economic crisis, it is unacceptable that VA’s mistakes and inefficiencies are creating undue financial strain for our veterans,” said Chairman Pappas. “I am proud to continue my efforts to reform VA’s broken and onerous debt collection process by introducing this bipartisan legislation. Our bill takes critical steps to reform VA processes and will save veterans and their families money.”
“Veterans already face an unprecedented public health crisis and the VA is further burdening them with their own inefficiencies. This is completely unacceptable and I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to right this wrong,” said Congressman Nehls.
The VA Beneficiary Debt Collection Improvement Act would:
- Prevents VA from collecting on a debt that was created as a result of VA’s failure to process information provided by an individual within applicable timeliness standards;
- Requires VA to notify a veteran if they have been overpaid and explains in detail how they can dispute the overpayment or request a waiver of indebtedness;
- Prevents VA from collecting on any overpayment debt for 90 days after the notice is issued, unless such a delay would negatively impact the veteran;
- Requires, within 180 days of passage, and one year thereafter, a plan from VA on improving the notification process and communication with individuals who receive overpayments;
- Prevents VA from collecting interest and administrative cost charges on debts relating to loans, disability compensation, pensions, or educational assistance programs;
- Extends window for individuals to request debt relief from six months to one year;
- Prohibits VA from submitting any debt for collection while there is an ongoing dispute;
- Requires VA to establish regulations guiding an administrative process for disputes of indebtedness;
- Requires updates to VA’s website to explain the debt collection and dispute process clearly;
- Prohibits VA from collecting any debt if the cost to collect the debt is greater than the value of the debt.
The American Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America are supportive of this legislation.
Pappas has been leading the fight to overhaul VA’s debt collection process since he was elected to serve as the Chair of Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Pappas led an investigative hearing, a bipartisan letter calling on VA to change the VA overpayment system, and introduced the SHIELD for Veterans Act of 2019 to address overpayment and debt collection issues. Additionally, the VA heeded Pappas’s call to suspend VA debt collections during the ongoing public health emergency.