WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Brown (D-OH) today announced that the Senate passed his amendment to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to track overpayments to veterans, which leads to veteran debt. The measure was passed as a part of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act and is based on his bipartisan bill, the Veterans’ Debt Fairness Act. This legislation was inspired by a meeting with Massillon veteran James Powers concerning a VA overpayment mistake.
“Our veterans sacrifice so much already to serve our country,” said Brown. “They shouldn’t be paying for the mistakes of the Department that’s supposed to serve them. This amendment is a step in the right direction to address an issue that impacts so many veterans in Ohio and across the country.”
Brown spoke on the floor last week and called for the passage of this amendment. Brown’s amendment requires VA to track the amount of veteran debt, whether that debt is the result of VA processing changes, and if the debt is disputed by the veteran.
Brown called this amendment is a step in the right direction, and he will continue fighting for full passage of his Veterans’ Debt Fairness Act. This legislation would 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.
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 is the longest-serving U.S. Senator from Ohio on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.