Veterans Will Be Expected to Repay Over $116 Million in Excessive Payments Due to VA Delays
by Makedah Salmond, Esq. October 4, 2021
Makedah Salmond directs the City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project.
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) oversees the delivery of benefits and services to veterans, their families, and their survivors. As stated in a recent VBA report, “One of the benefits is provided by the disability compensation program, which provides a tax-free monthly payment to a veteran because of the effects of disabilities caused by diseases, events, or injuries incurred or aggravated during active military service.” The VBA assigns each condition a rating percentage that indicates the severity of the disability and how much it diminishes the veteran’s health and ability to function. The VBA’s Office of Field Operations is responsible for ensuring disability compensation benefits are provided in an effective and efficient manner.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) performs audits, inspections, investigations, and reviews that improve the efficiency, and effectiveness of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ programs and services. OIG conducted a review to determine whether the VBA’s Office of Field Operations managed proposals to reduce benefits, which can result in lowering or discontinuing disability benefits, in a way that minimizes processing delays and excessive payments. The review period covering from February 1, 2019 through January 31, 2020, determined that the Office of Field Operations did not manage proposed reductions to benefits in a way that minimized delays and excessive payments.
OIG estimated VBA made excessive payments on about 16,000 of 47,400 or 34% of claims. During the one-year review period, this resulted in about $116 million in ostensibly excessive payments to veterans and if these issues continue, the report estimates VBA will make $232 million in excessive payments to veterans over the next two years.
The misallocation of these funds and lack of streamlined processes raises serious problems for veterans that have been charged by VBA to pay back excessive payments received. Additionally, delays resulting from excessive payments processed may cause unnecessary stress and confusion for veterans who wait extended periods for a final decision following notice of a proposal to reduce or discontinue their benefits, even as they continue to receive their potentially higher level of benefits.
The City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) has become aware of these issues through conversations with its own clients. One veteran described their frustration and confusion after receiving notification from the VA indicating its intent to recoup approximately $5,500 in excessive payments made to the veteran. As VAP clients live at or below the federal poverty level, the VA seeking to recoup excessive payments made through no fault of the veteran, can further exacerbate the veteran’s economic status. VAP is advocating for waivers of debt on behalf of its clients due to the VA’s failure to efficiently process reduction of benefits which lead to excessive payments.
OIG recommended that the VBA Office of Field Operations establish, document, and implement a workload management strategy to distribute and process proposals to reduce benefits that minimizes delays and excessive payments. To learn more, read the full report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General here: https://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-20-03229-155.pdf
This informational resource does not constitute, or substitute for, legal advice.
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