VA Glitches Continue: 40 Thousand Pension Earners Potentially Overpaid
Multiple sources report as many as 40 thousand veterans, and surviving family members have been overpaid by the Department of Veterans Affairs since 2011. These beneficiaries are typically those who qualify for VA pensions, and now the VA is trying to decide what to do about the overpayments.
Typically, when the VA overpays a benefit, it sends a notice to the veteran at some point acknowledging the problem and indicating an attempt to have those overpayments given back to the federal government.
The concern in this particular case? The government is in a position to ask tens of thousands of low-income veterans to pay back money they never asked for in the first place. That could seriously affect the financial bottom line of many low-income and fixed-income senior vets and their survivors.
Related: Military Benefits Guide
VA Says It Won’t Attempt To Collect For Now
A MilitaryTimes.com article notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t planning to recoup the overpayment “for now.” That does not mean veterans aren’t being contacted about their “debt,” and some may find communications from the VA in the mail or online discussing it.
Why did the VA Overpay Low-Income Veterans?
On the surface, the explanation given sounds like a problem with both the VA and how retiree data is communicated to and verified by the Department of Veterans Affairs. But at the end of the day, it’s the VA’s responsibility to verify and update user data in its own system.
It’s true that VA pension recipients are asked to self-report income data meant to be verified by the VA to determine benefits. But according to Military Times, VA staffers could not verify or accurately verify thousands of accounts or the data submitted. That led to a discrepancy that reaches back as far as 2011, with thousands of accounts affected.
Why this issue was allowed to complicate VA claims since 2011 without being addressed or publicly acknowledged is unclear at press time.
It would be easy to blame those responsible for self-reporting the income data, but the Department of Veterans Affairs manages the program, not the veteran population.
And now, the VA is required by federal law to determine how much these veterans and families “owe” the Department of Veterans Affairs, and in the course of making those determinations, it was discovered that some 40 thousand veterans are affected by the VA’s inability to verify income data between 2011 and the time the problem was made public.
Do Veterans Have To Repay the VA?
MilitaryTimes.com quotes a VA press statement about this problem, which notes, “Many of these veterans and survivors are elderly, and all are low-income, so these debts represent a significant hardship…”
The press release adds, “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.”
At press time, the VA is not attempting to collect these debts. That may change.
This issue comes after headlines earlier in 2023 noted similar record-keeping problems also dating back to 2011, which affected some 90 thousand vets who filed VA disability claims using the agency’s online platform. Many of those claims were lost in the system and/or were never properly processed.
Do you have questions about a recent VA notification about a debt or need to know how to repay a VA debt? Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs directly by calling 800-827-0648.
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About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.