Brown Joins Massillon Veteran Who Inspired Legislation to Outline Bill to Protect Veterans from Undue Financial Burden

Massillon Veteran Raised VA Overpayment Issue with Brown during Senator’s Weekly Constituent Coffee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On a news conference call today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Massillon veteran James Powers to outline bipartisan legislation to protect veterans from paying for accounting mistakes by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Brown’s bill to institute commonsense measures to protect veterans from VA overpayment mistakes is one of several steps taken by Brown’s office following a meeting with Powers at Brown’s weekly constituent coffee in Washington.

  • Following Brown’s meeting with Powers, Brown’s staff worked with VA to resolve his issue.
  • Last week, Brown joined colleagues in introducing legislation that prevents VA from recouping overpayment of benefits in a way that causes financial hardships for veterans and their families and that prohibits VA from charging veterans for overpayments when VA is at fault. 

“Our veterans sacrifice so much already to serve our country. They shouldn’t be paying for the mistakes of the agency that’s supposed to serve them,” said Brown.

“What started as one veteran needing assistance with the VA has evolved into purposeful legislation being introduced by Senators Brown and Tester that can help protect all veterans when dealing with VA overpayments and debts,” said Powers. “It is great to be a part of this legislation not only because it validates a concern I had regarding VA policy, but if put into law will help all veterans and ensure that the VA is properly handling claims and not creating undue hardship and debt for veterans.”

According to a VICE news report, overpayments from VA have been on the rise since 2013. In 2016 alone, VA issued upwards of 200,000 overpayment notices to veterans, often recouping funds by withholding some or all of a veteran’s monthly disability benefit payments. 

Brown’s legislation prevents VA from recouping those benefits in a way that causes financial hardships for veterans and their families and prohibits VA from charging veterans for overpayments when VA is at fault. 

Brown’s Veterans’ Debt Fairness Act will address the root causes of VA overpayments and institute common-sense protections for veterans by: 

  • Only allowing VA to collect debts that occur as a result of an error or fraud on the part of a veteran or their beneficiary. 
  • Requiring that VA cannot deduct more than 25 percent from a veteran’s monthly payment in order to recoup overpayment or debt. This amount may be further reduced if the deduction puts that veteran at risk of financial hardship, for example if the veteran is living on a fixed income. 
  • Preventing VA from collecting debts incurred more than five years prior. Currently there is no time limit on how long after a payment a veteran can be billed.
  • Requiring VA to provide veterans with a way to update their dependency information on their own, eliminating a key processing delay for veterans, which frequently contributes to VA making overpayments. 

Brown’s bill has been endorsed by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Last year, President Trump signed Brown’s bipartisan legislation to improve education benefits for student veterans into law. The bill also allows veterans to use their GI benefits for life, ending the current 15-year limit imposed on veterans to use the benefits they earned. Brown helped secure a provision of the bill that would restore GI benefits for veterans who attended ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, both of which failed and left veterans with meaningless degrees or without a degree to show for their time. Brown has been working to restore benefits for veterans who were defrauded since 2016.

Brown is the longest-serving U.S. Senator from Ohio on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.