Reforms Ignore Need To Overhaul VA Debt Collection

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VA Debt

One noteworthy article this week addresses consistent problems veterans face when attacked by VA debt collectors in its Debt Management Center.

Last month, the American Legion (Legion) provided testimony to Congress exposing problems in how the VA Debt Management Center (DMC) goes about collecting debts. In many instances, the debts owed are the result of agency failures or haphazard application of standards directly harming veterans’ finances.

The large majority of debts are in the form of overpayments. In 2016 alone, VA sent almost 187,000 overpayment notices for debts up to and beyond the tens of thousands of dollars.

Under the present legal framework, when VA says a veteran owes money, regardless of who was at fault, the agency can withhold the funds from disability compensation payouts or tax returns to recoup the funds. Veterans who contest the results are forced to jump through sometimes impossible hoops to resolve the matter.

And even when resolved, such as through granting of a waiver, VA computer software still allows the agency to withhold finances even though no money is truly owed.

Requesting a waiver from VA to resolve possible overpayment is one of the few ways veterans are able to avoid repayment or at least delay repayment pending adjudication at the DMC. But most veterans fail to file for a waiver much less understand the legal requirements to avoid repayment regardless of the reason.

VA Debt And Widow Cheri Lopez

Vice News published the story and provided numerous examples where veterans were economically injured as a result of the program. Here is one curious story to ponder:

Scott Oswell joined the military at age 17 and served for 16 years until he died in a helicopter crash during combat on July 4, 2007. He left behind a wife and three children. After his death, the VA told his widow, Cheri Lopez, that she would receive a monthly entitlement for the kids. When she remarried in 2008, she says, she informed the VA seven times in writing and over the phone and sent the U.S. Army a copy of the marriage certificate.

In December 2015, she opened her mail to find a notice from the VA saying she owed the agency $177, 655.05 for benefits she shouldn’t have received. The VA said she never told the military she had remarried.

Lopez appealed the debt and the agency admitted it had made a mistake. Now she owed $103,293.05. Lopez paid off the debt with the money she had set aside for expenses including her children’s college costs and their wedding funds. Lopez was five classes away from a bachelor’s degree but said she could not finish because the debt means she can no longer receive federal student aid.

While this one is perhaps not the most sympathetic, as she likely should have realized she was receiving an overpayment and not spent the money, some folk’s cases are less obvious.

I think of the countless examples where VA VocRehab forces veterans out of training. Or, the program fails to properly accommodate the veteran resulting in the person dropping out of school. Either way, that veteran will need to pay back any unearned subsistence payments if they fail to complete the term resulting in supposed overpayment of thousands.

In these instances, it seems unfair for VA to assert the veteran received the funds they did not earn since the agency’s failures resulted in the veteran dropping out of the program, to begin with.

Anyway, this topic is an interesting one, and I have no doubt VA is failing to do everything it can to help minimize the adverse effects on veterans when the DMC comes knocking.

Source: https://news.vice.com/story/veterans-cant-get-answers-about-va-debt

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Lem
Lem

Biggest reform needed is the ability to have an audit trail to prevent fraud. People don’t like to pay back money they never got. And if you are getting compensation it comes out of your check without due process of an audit trail.

Earl
Earl

VA has been doing this a long time to me

Just Sayin
Just Sayin
one of the worst va collection scams, involves those with VA pensions (a needs based benefit). Often a VA pensioner may also receive SSDI income, after winning a social security disability award. There could be up to a year retro pay involved plus possibly another 2 years or so of back pay for the time it took the SSDI claim to be granted. But then, when the VA pensioner receives his/her 1st payment from ssdi to include backpay as income to offset future VA payments, the VA then wrongly begins collection attempts against the retro and back pay periods too,… Read more »
cj
cj

.

Bill
Bill

And of course as they are bending you over they whisper in your ear “thank you for your service”

Jo3n

Hell, and we’re still trying to get an accountability law. There are so many things wrong with the VA. I spent some time looking at past posts. There’s so much wrong, just mean…..

EB
EB
About ten years ago when i first started using Dayton VA the CBOC sent me to dayton to get my medications, after about 4 months went by they started sending me notices that i owed them $21.00 and. My wife was telling me and i was telling my wife that it was suppose to be free. The next time i went to get my medication i got to the window after waiting about 3.5 hours, Had to see the pharmacist which took1.5 hours and then wait in line 2 hours just to pick it up, and they said you can… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
When I went to the outpatient pharmacy, I found an old black guy in a wheel chair and I asked him if he was getting his meds, ok. He told me that he had been there in his wheel chair for six hours…. I went up to the Director’s office and I told the assistant director to take care of this older gentleman veteran NOW. The assistant director told me to lower my voice and not to be so upset. I told him that I wasn’t in the least upset but that if they didn’t take care of this veteran… Read more »
James s Gallegos
I am glad it worked for you, unfortunately many veteran’s that complain about their care, don’t have to get loud, just saying something about an employee gets the veteran reported to the disruptive committee. Once reported nothing, but nothing will stop the committee from punishing them. ! You are guilty and not innocent until proven guilty. Hell, a veteran does not even have to be at the VA or clinic or do or say anything and yet be reported as being disruptive. Don’t believe me, call the VA in Denver and tell them you are doing an investigation and use… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve

James: They tried to pull that crap on me although I did not “raise” my voice in demanding a copy of my X-ray. You have to confront them calmly and demand that you be treated with respect and efficiently. If they know that you know what the rules are they will treat you properly.

ANutterVet
ANutterVet
I remember back around 1992 – ’93 I purchased a software program that enabled me to financially audit utility bills. After getting familiar with the software, I discovered that I could evaluate each and every month for errors. The advantage of checking each month for mistakes was fantastic. Commission was 50 cents on the dollar, 50%, 50 – 50. So if $10, 000 was discovered, commission would be $5,000. This is great. Now, lets say that someone is good in calculating how each facility or distribution hub(s) or network(s) within a agency, say like the VA. Oh my goodness, there… Read more »
Angela
Angela
@Benjamin and all, remember this is the VA speciality. Their objective is to hammer veterans. Benjamin, even with the forthcoming Accountability Act, I seriously doubt much will change. Benjamin, remember when the Pentagon paid the re-enlistment bonuses to the National Guard soldiers in California, then, they said it was mistake and the Pentagon wanted the money back. Remember, President Trump and Congress stepped into the situation. The resulting decision was the Pentagon no longer was requiring the money to be paid back due to the Pentagon financial error. So with whatever the VA has done that is not ethical, not… Read more »
Angela
Angela
I meant to say, “When the employees in the VA have to deal with the consequences of their financial errors, Medical errors or whatever the errors happen to be, the errors will no longer happen in the VA and will no longer happen when directly dealing with the Veterans.” This would be the ideal situation; but, I predict, even, with the Accountability Act, the VA will continue to squirm it’s way out of having to deal with the consequences of their actions. With what Secretary David Shulkin is trying to do with the Accountability Act in the VA, I will… Read more »
Rich B
Rich B
In all situations where the veteran is overpaid regardless of who’s fault it is, the veteran is usually afforded the right to request a wavier of the debt and within that request explain why they should not be required to return the money. The wavier request actually works. For example: When I was much younger I assumed the payments of a Home from another veteran, who had used his VA benefits to obtain the loan. His loan fell under the old rules where he was not required to get VA approval for someone to assume the payments. The assumption was… Read more »
Angela
Angela

Rich B., I believe she should have made more noise to whomever even if it had to be a Congressional member to really get someone’s attention about the VA not doing what they were supposed to do. She should have asked for the waiver if she knew about it. She may not have known. I have been in the VA forever begin and did not know a waiver could be requested. Best.

James s Gallegos
Wish I knew about the waver, I went to school failed and had to pay the money back. Did not know that I had a traumatic brain injury from being shot in the head while on active duty. Because the VA refused me care, because the VA lied and told me my official military record’s were distroyed In the saint Louis fire. I first applied in 1974 for disability denied for forty year’s and after winning my claim, did they pay me all that back pay.? Hell No. ! Once I received my 100 %, the VA reported me as… Read more »
Windguy
Windguy

Every occupation in large organizations includes bonus-for-performance incentives than only serve a necessary chain of individuals. It’s the perfectly geometric pyramid. The guy at the top scores big, the guys at the bottom are legion and get a pittance of what the top and middle get. Public sector – private sector – doesn’t matter. Make no mistake – the incentives are not in benefit to veterans.

ThisVet2017
ThisVet2017
Problem is, whenever people talk about the problems in the VA, the focus is on the hospitals and medical care. The VA’s problems also are in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) side of the house too. That’s where veterans have to suffer the issues with processing of their application for disability benefits. The VBA also is responsible for updating dependents in the system too – but that’s a “low” priority for them. So, they sit back and wait for the benefits to get paid out, then come and hit the veterans (or dependents) with a stiff bill. In other words,… Read more »
Angela
Angela
Yes, I agree with you about VBA. I have a friend who found out that her dependent was not even legitimately listed in her profile in VBA. My friend gave VBA the paperwork via fax to change this and VBA still let it fall through the cracks. My friend contacted VBA religiously over a period of time and they still could not find the faxed paperwork for my friend’s dependent. I believe they were saying she owed them back pay but in reality she did not. She had to prove her dependent to them. This situation from what I remember… Read more »
Jo3n

@Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve, truly love the name. Your post is like a dream. The VA is a nightmare. Again, Veterans have the answer. Problem being, the VA doesn’t listen to Veterans. Congress doesn’t listen to Veterans. Senate doesn’t listen to Veterans. There are lawyers listening to your posts. They just know better. In our President’s words..The VA is just….Mean. He wasn’t speaking about the VA, but the same applies.

Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Thanks, The VA has probably put up with my shenanigans because I are a lawyer and they know that despite my disabilities, the combination of my experience as a former Marine officer looking out for my people and as a lawyer that I don’t put up with their crap. I wish that folks could each have the benefit of a personal representative who would assert the facts quickly and then pounce. Most Vets who are denied benefits need to call for a hearing on the record and despite the lawyer not receiving pay authorized by the VA get that rep… Read more »
ANutterVet
ANutterVet
You know the more that I think about it (and I know that this may be idealistic), that could you imagine how much more that the VA would be ran, if Shithead ‘Shitty’ Shulkin (thank you @Crazy elf) would agree to accept 5 – 10 areas of interest from Ben and Company, pertaining to the VA Distribution Hub and Network of Products and Services. Looking for overbilling and overcharges of private sector service companies, theft of Controlled Substances, time theft by VA – AFGE Employee, etc.. I know, I know, this is totally idealistic if VA showed any type of… Read more »
Jo3n

It’s SO obvious that the VA likes the way things are. As of right now, Dr. Shulkin, (shithead), thanks Crazy elf, is the VA. You would think that a Dr. Shithead would most likely be a proctologist(sp). I once had a Dr. Yankovich as a Dentist. Not in the VA, we don’t get dentists.

Kat Owen
Kat Owen
The DMC did this to my husband and I years ago, when I received a back child support check in the mail. Child support that was owed to me years ago, I was surprised I even got one. My husband collects a improved pension from the VA, meaning he’s not service connected but unable to work due to illness or injury and falls below the poverty level. No sooner than I got that check, I called the same day to DMC to report the check for the amount of $200. I got a couple more checks after that which totaled… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Kat Owen, hustle down to your local courthouse and file a small claims lawsuit against the VA and phone in and find out who the several clerks and the supervisors are and name them as defendants in the law suit. Then make sure they are served, (you can serve them via registered mail but if you can afford to serve them in person, it gets a little more response. If they try to postpone the case go before the judge and plead insolvency and distress. When you go to court wear your raggiest clothes and take the baby, (grandbaby with… Read more »
Kat Owen
Kat Owen
The problem with serving them court paperwork only makes matters worse. Yes they do and will “Red Flag” my husbands file and make life a living hell for doing so. I’m sure they are already going to red flag it anyways now that I got a governor on my side to help speed up the process. I wouldn’t have even bothered with all of this in the first place, but between the Pension Center and Arizona DES Dept. of Economic Security a.k.a. the welfare dept which whom threw a wrench into this mess. The DES was the ones who required… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Did anyone on your behalf or did you find out “who” is the party obstructing resolution of your situation Every illegal turn by the VA needs to be met with an offensive attack upon a particular offending creep who needs to be put under the floodlight and grilled as to why he/she is obstructing the resolution of your situation. Sure,, they can red flag your file, but the U.S. Constitution, (5th A and 14th A require…………………………………………………… procedural DUE PROCESS, THAT IS, NOTICE AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND, SO JUST POSTING YOUR RECORD WITH A “RED FLAG” and not advising you… Read more »
Jo3n

@Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve, can we really just take a VA employee to court? Where can I find out? I have at least one issue I would like to settle. What if where I live is in a different county? Where is there reading material on how to sue employees of the VA? Night y’all..

Dennis
Dennis
I took a VA employee to court and VA responded with aggressive action. In Oregon it is a violation of law to telephone a disabled person at home and tell them you are going to cut off services for ANY reason. When the CBOC manager called me at home and informed me he was going to turn me into the disruptive behavior committee for faxing complaints and leaving messages, he violated that law. I went to district court and told my story to the judge who agreed he had violated the law and she issued a restraining order against VA… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Dennis, you are a hero for sure in the battle on behalf of veterans against the cesspool they call the VA. However, when they took illegal action against you that was your opportunity to go back to court and ask the judge for damages for violating the court order and then going to the IG for disciplinary action against them AND FOR DAMAGES. Dennis, I don’t know how old you are, but you should get the VA to pay Rehab for you to go to Law School, because you would be “HELL ON WHEELS”. Your creativity and ingenuity, and brilliance… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve

It seems to me, Dennis that once they determined that you had committed no offenses verified by VA police that you had a great opportunity to sue them for defamation, libel, and slander in a Superior/Circuit Court. It is just like wiping out the enemy or a bunch of roaches, the job is not done until you take out the last roach…………………………….Nice to have a jury see what these crackheads do…………………………………………..

Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Dennis, do you remember when the 4 VA cops approached me to “take me into custody” for “acting out”, (calmly requesting a copy of my x-ray)? and I calmly asked them if they were coming for me, and when they said: ‘Yes sir,, we are…and I said GOOD, CUZ I REALLY NEED THE MONEY. You must stop them from using illegal means to prevent you from insisting that they do their job. Each time they blatantly try to blame you for their own misdeeds you must attack them legally. and guys like you and I must calmly, like sharks eyeing… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Just file the small claims lawsuit in the county where you live and let the VA get in their little Uber car and drive to where you are; When the judge asks you questions tell the judge that you wish for him/her to grant you the limit of damages for “fraud” for punitive damages in accordance with what you saw on “Judge Judy”. Tell the judge that you understand that when someone has shown bad faith, he/she can be made to pay “punitive damages” and ask the judge to grant you the court’s limit of punitive damages, (which in most… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Just remember, what effect if there are 100,000 small claims actions against the VA commenced throughout this country? (How do you get the attention of a mule? You hit it on the head, (or preferably in its private parts), and the mule will pay attention). As well, if there are 100,000 hearings on the record, there will be many of them where the result is that the veterans will be granted their disability compensation, etc. and will save a great amount of time and suffering by veterans. As well, this will shed a little light on the biggest offenders in… Read more »
Crazy elf
Crazy elf
You know something, this “DMC”, which is an entity of the VA, sounds a whole lot like the “DNC”! Y’all know how that ‘agency’ works. They’re the ones who got caught “rigging the election AGAINST Bernie Boy’! They’re the ones who got caught ‘cheating’ during the debates: ie; Getting the questions before hand! They’re the ones who were (probably) implicated in many different illegal activities throughout the campaign! So, doesn’t this sound a lot like HOW the Veterans Administration works? They “rig the system against the Veteran”! They “cheat”, every way possible, against the Veteran! And, They’ve been “implicated in… Read more »
Angela
Angela
Yep, folks, innocence and good deeds are prosecuted; but yet, the lovely corruption blossoms and thrives. Many people hate rules, law, and order. They do whatever they want to with total disrepect and total disregard of what the rules or law states. Many people brush each others backs with nobody being held accountable. SAD. With no world order, nothing positive can be accomplished and many lives are destroyed. Though, folks, we have people who really do not care about anyone but themselves. But, even then too, in many cases people do not even care about themselves. So if one does… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve

time to play nighttime warrior, and surreptitiously dump the garbage back on the threshold of the offending party, with an untraceable note requesting them to put their garbage into a proper container, to prevent the accumulation of flies and rats. do you have an HOA? HOAs have the power of God……………..

Crazy elf
Crazy elf
Here’s three “MUST READ” articles! 1.) Titled: “IU Cut Reversal Leaves VA Looking for Ways To Fund Choice Expansion” 16 June 2017 “Military.com” | by Richard Sisk ——————————— 2.) Titled: “Ex-VA Exec Says He Wasn’t Told Hospital Cost” 15 June 2017 “Associated Press | by Dan Elliott This one is about the Aurora Colorado VHA over budget hospital. ——————————— 3.) Titled: “VA Chief Withdraws Staab Appeal; Vows to Replace ‘IU’ Pay Cut Too” From: “The Military Advantage Blog” Posted by: Tom Philpott June 15, 2017 __________________ Again, it’s up to us too give “ideas” to our “elected and appointed officials”… Read more »
namnibor
namnibor
How the HELL could VA Sec. Shulkin NOT KNOW the MASSIVE cost overruns of the Aurora Colorado VAMC? He should have even known about this in previous years before become chief turd. There’s absolutely NO WAY Shulkin was not aware of the VA’s Black Hole Project. This just shows that we Veterans were only considered as low-hanging fruit to fund Choice Expansion and the irony of this is most veterans get denied to even utilize Choice. What’s Shulkin and Co. want to try to do next? Take-back all wheel chairs from veterans and sell them for scrap? Maybe steal benefits… Read more »
cj
cj
@namnibor: Oh, I can just see it now, Shithead takes back Veterans government issued wheelchairs, and issues the new and improved VA Scapegoat board. With a nurse practitioners order, you can be issued the add on device, that allows you to strap on 2 carefully matched boards with anti skid mark wheels. Soon the shithead will contract out the construction of the new Veterans Memorial Express, eerily resembling a giant hot wheels track, complete with hoop de doo’s. Yes my fellow Veterans, visiting your local VA will now be as fun for you as it is for them. I’ve seen… Read more »
141FE
141FE
Flotmorton, Benjamin, do either of you handle cases against other than the VA? i.e.; the National Guard Bureau? I at the end of my 37 Year career (24 yrs AD, 13 yrs Res). In the last year, I’ve had the NGB deny a LOD, deny my claim to sanctuary and deny an MEB that the AD physicians recommended, which by the way would have gotten me a medical retirement and a VA rating. There was an appeal process for the LOD and I was successful with that, however there is no process to appeal the sanctuary claim or the MEB… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve

contact your local DAV office and ask them to file on your behalf a cause of action in U.S. District Court with a “Writ of Mandamus requiring them to do their job in accordance with the statutes, and to file for damages because at the time you were dealing with them you were not on active duty so they do not have that immunity. Who is the screwball who denied your claim, find out.

Rog
Rog

Who at American Legion, or which office, do we contact if we want to
add someone’s story about the DMC?
Thanks

Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve

The American Legion should have that answer and also contact the local newspaper and claim that shit head Shulkin, is not doing what he promised.

Dennis
Dennis
Let me toss out a kernal of VA goodness. When I got my VBA award it was at nearly the same time as SSDI and I was dirt poor. I had been attending weekly homeless vet meetings held by VA. When I explained to the VA counsellor that I was withdrawing from the homeless program because of the award, she asked me about back pay money. I explained they had backdated it more than five years effectively and that the money would be substantial. I said, “I’m not really sure what to do with it all.” Then she blew me… Read more »
namnibor
namnibor
@Dennis- You tell the honest truth. Been there, and done that same scenario as you but instead of the VA Homelessness it was a community-Based one that centered mostly around one of my big chronic diseases, including the Hep B the USAF gave me in an unsterile surgical blood transfusion scenario of unmistakable medical error, but just like the VA Homelessness Program you spoke of, the one I was in did help me out a lot, especially when the VA refused to abide by the well-respected private infectious disease Dr.’s test results, medication that absolutely was required and was at… Read more »
namnibor
namnibor
I survived on basic food pantry hand-outs and tons of noodles for a few years because as a single white male, no consideration of being a Veteran, I was somehow supposed to live on $112. a month on food stamps. Oh, I made it work, but I also gained about 60 LBs that I have shed in last couple years…not a healthy system. Obama provided many increases to those around me in public housing, including doubling their food stamps while reducing mine at that time to $64. a month. Other’s in public housing were trying to tell me ways to… Read more »
OLDMARINE
OLDMARINE

well namnibor your 64 dollars still beat my 15 a month..[lots of beans and rice..LOL] and my energy assistance check of 55 dollars a year for heat, fuck you cant even by a cord of wood for that much, what a great system we have…NOT…..and thank you for your service, what BULLSHIT

namnibor
namnibor
Buying toilet paper was a chore because no assistance provided such and food pantries had it. Really bad when you have to walk 3 blocks to a public library to take a shit because you ran out of ration of t-paper. That too, was a zoo. One of my many trips to that library to relieve myself, I walked-in to an older man just standing in middle of bathroom wanking off….WTF? There’s kids there! WTF? Not to worry, he was the city employed janitorial staff at the library….fine lot, all of the taxpayer funded lackadaisical hacks…and crumbs tossed to Veterans.… Read more »
Rickey a Wylie
Repayment? Let me tell you about repayment I couldn’t get home after ets because of repayment. I was injured in basic training with a grenade spent 3 days in hospital and it took 6 years for me to find the records! Of that. the appeals board that is in process of a N O D hasn’t even seen these records yet? about 2 years later after many complacations from the first accident i was injured when the main gun i was loading in an M-60 tank exploded i was pulled out of tank unconscious. I was transferred to another unit… Read more »
James s Gallegos
Rickey, you are not crazy. ! It’s your disability and I must ask, have you appealed your rating, if not do so now. I also want you to make an appointment with a social worker at the VA and tell them your situation with you and your wife being on the verge of homelessness. They maybe able to help or give advise. I want you to make an appointment with mental health and tell them also, explain to them that your PTSD is getting worse. Like the other post from the other veteran, with what happened to you while on… Read more »
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve
Flotmorton P. Gildersleeve

Ricky, let me know who the Lt. was who forced you to pay for your gear, and I will make some inquiries into his present status, and although you can’t sue the gov’t for stuff they do while on active duty, you can make them correct their mistakes and they can certainly suffer in their careers, The next promotion beyond five stat general is CIVILIAN…………………………..

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