Representatives Pappas and Rose Introduce Legislation to Protect Veterans from VA Errors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), who serves as the Chair of Oversight and Investigations for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation with Congressman Max Rose (NY-11), a combat veteran, to reform the VA’s debt collection process. The introduction of this bill follows an alarming hearing revealing the gross inefficiencies in the VA and the financial hardship such issues have created for veterans.
This hearing found the VA overpayment system generated and then collected $1.6 billion in debt from veterans in the last fiscal year. These overpayments are a result of mistakes in disability payouts, changes in eligibility, or simple accounting errors which have resulted in financial difficulties for hundreds of thousands of veterans, especially for those living on fixed incomes. The Stopping Harm and Implementing Enhanced Lead-time for Debts for Veterans Act, or SHIELD for Veterans Act seeks to remedy these alarming findings.
“Many veterans rely on their earned benefits to make ends meet,” said Chairman Pappas. “It is unacceptable that the VA’s mistakes or inefficiencies are hurting the men and women they are supposed to serve. I am proud to introduce the SHIELD for Veterans Act which takes critical steps to reform the VA and ensure we are making good on the promises we have made to our veterans.”
“When the VA fails, veterans shouldn’t be the ones having to pick up the tab and pay lawyers to fight for what they’re owed,” said Rose, an Army combat veteran. “I’m proud that we’ve had individual successes on behalf of constituents who have experienced this, but the fact is it shouldn’t take a Member of Congress stepping in to make this right. It’s time we fix this once and for all.”
The SHIELD for Veterans Act would:
- Prevent VA from collecting any overpayment that was a result of a delay in processing by VA;
- Require that VA provide notice of any overpayment and its plan to recollect such payment at least 90 days in advance of beginning collection;
- Require VA to notify veterans of their right to dispute overpayment or to request a waiver of the debt;
- Prohibit VA from charging interest or administrative costs on debts relating to disability compensation, pensions, or educational assistance;
- Require VA to submit a report to Congress by May 2020 detailing its plan to improve the notification of overpayments and communication with veterans who receive overpayment.
Immediately following the September hearing, Congressmen Pappas and Rose also sent a letter to the VA calling on them to take immediate action to change the VA overpayment system.