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house Bill H.R. 4360

Should Veterans Who’ve Been Overpaid by the VA be Protected From Credit Score Damage?

Argument in favor

Veterans shouldn’t be penalized, or their credit scores subject to damage, if the VA makes overpayments to them due to errors or outdated technology at the agency. Given the number of veterans living paycheck-to-paycheck or who are even homeless, it’s especially unreasonable for VA errrors to push them further towards — or even over — the brink.

jimK's Opinion
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11/12/2019
This bill may be duplicative of existing laws. However, specifically mandating the VA to correct the error with credit bureaus, a US government agency, puts some clout onto clearing credit records due to VA mistakes. I wholeheartedly support this. It is very difficult for most people to correct minor errors in their credit reporting let alone impactful errors such as these. Make the VA accountable for their mistakes- do not put it on vets to assume the role of accountants and lawyers in having to file endless claims and documentation.
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Jim's Opinion
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11/12/2019
The VA made the error. A vet suffering from a disability may not be able to handle the accounting and find the error on their own. They are trying to survive the day, or cope with the next hour. They should not be punished for the government’s error.
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Lisa's Opinion
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11/12/2019
Are veterans truly overpaid? No, they should not be victimized by credit ratings especially if it was not their fault.
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Argument opposed

This bill is duplicative of existing laws, and also mandates the VA to carry out initiatives that it’s already either carrying out or in the process of putting into place. It also asks the VA to potentially violate veterans’ dependents’ privacy (one provision would require the VA to allow a veteran to review all debt incurred by their dependents) and to carry out a benefits error audit that isn’t feasible with its current system.

Ronald's Opinion
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11/12/2019
America is in debt. Congress is putting us deeper in debt daily, with deficit spending. with others.We must not focus on items, even important ones, until Congress resolves deficit spending, and pays off Our debt. Big problems first. Then we can deal
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DumbocratsSUCK's Opinion
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11/12/2019
What’s your thought process here dumbocrats??!! If you make the law AGAIN... it’s going to work this time??!! ... duh...
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Brian's Opinion
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11/12/2019
Nearly all Americans would be required to pay back money that was overpaid to them in a clerical error, so it's unreasonable to expect that veterans should be an exception, even though I do respect their service. I don't think credit score damage is nearly as bad as taking money back from them, so this law doesn't seem necessary. However, we really should provide the best care to our veterans, which would include using the most up-to-date software and accounting practices to prevent these types of errors.
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What is House Bill H.R. 4360?

This bill — the VA Overpayment Accountability Act — would ensure that veterans impacted by overpayment errors at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) could repair these errors without damage to their credit scores. When overpayment errors occur, the VA would be required to contact credit reporting agencies to correct any information on affected beneficiaries’ credit reports that was erroneously provided by the VA.

It would also require the VA to make improvements to systems proven to cause overpayments so veterans can receive electronic notifications of debts and review information on their dependents. The VA would also be required to submit a plan for correcting these overpayment problems to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. Finally, this bill would require the VA to perform an audit of the overpayments it has made.

Impact

Veterans; veterans who have received overpayments from the VA; credit scores of veterans who have received overpayments from the VA; and the VA.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 4360

$6.00 Million
The CBO estimates that this bill would cost $6 million over the 2020-2024 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) introduced this bill to help veterans who have been unfairly targeted by debt collection agencies due to errors by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA): 

“We should be honoring our veterans, not sending debt collectors after them because the VA’s systems have failed. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill because our veterans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they deserve a VA that works for them. After their sacrifice and what they’ve given to our country, holding the VA accountable for overpayments and protecting our veterans is the least we can do to say thank you.”

In his statement for the record to the House Veterans Affairs Committee as part of its legislative hearing on this bill, Rep. Kim said: 

“Through several programs, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides monthly payments to veterans and other beneficiaries. Because the VA often relies on outdated systems to provide those payments, those recipients sometimes receive overpayments at no fault of their own. When this happens, it’s the veterans who pay a price. In order to compensate for their mistake, the VA will withhold payments from veterans. At a time in which 1.4 million veterans across the United States are struggling with poverty issues, withholding payment can have severe consequences for Americans who earned these benefits. Because there is no limit on how much the VA can ask a vet to repay, and no limit on how far back it can go to collect the debt, these sums can impact the credit and financial stability of veterans. The VA Overpayment Accountability Act aims to fix these issues by improving VA IT systems that are often the cause of these overpayments. It also provides credit protections for veterans who are the victims of overpayments and become targets of unfair VA practices. As a grateful nation, we should aim to honor our veterans, not send debt collectors after them because of a failure at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Original cosponsor Rep. French Hill (R-AR) adds

“Too many veterans in my home state of Arkansas have suffered financially because of payment mistakes made by the VA. It is unacceptable that the lives of our veterans can be turned upside down at no fault of their own. The VA Overpayment Accountability Act takes the burden off our veterans when the VA makes a payment error and protects their hard-earned monthly benefit checks and credit scores. Veterans should never have to pay such a heavy price for the VA’s mistakes.”

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) supports this bill. Testifying before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on October 22, 2019, its Deputy National Legislative Director for Benefits, Shane Liermann, said: 

“DAV supports [this bill] as it is in accord with DAV Resolution No. 108, calling for reforms relating to recovery of debts by the VA and would bring necessary reforms to the VA collection and reporting processes. Erroneous reporting to consumer reporting agencies can have serious negative consequences for veterans and their families and this bill would provide protections and corrections to credit reporting.”

Barbara Kim-Hagemann, State Commander of the Department Of New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars, expresses support for this bill: 

“The veterans residing in New Jersey support the efforts of Congressman Kim in correcting the harsh Veterans Administration procedures in recouping benefit overpayments from veterans who are barely living paycheck to paycheck. We have long advocated for a fully funded VA that fills employee vacancies, improves customer service and modernizes the health and benefit IT system.”

The VA opposes this bill in its current form, as it believes certain provisions are duplicative of existing laws. Testifying to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs on October 22, 2019, Ronald Burke, Executive Director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Pension and Fiduciary Service, said:

“While VA appreciates the intent of this bill and is continuing to work with Committee staff to mature VA debt management, VA does not support this bill in its current form. We believe some provisions are duplicative of current laws… Further, other provisions present technical and implementation issues as detailed below.”

Specifically, Burke noted that the VA already submits corrections on debt information to consumer reporting agencies as required by law, and that the agency has “robust procedures” to ensure credit report errors are corrected. He also noted that VA is already required to provide notifications to veterans of debts incurred, and that the agency is already working to improve its systems and make debt viewable online ‘within the next year.” Furthermore, he raised concerns about a provision of this bill requiring the VA to allow veterans to review information about debt incurred by their dependents — he noted that in some cases, it may be inappropriate for VA to allow this for reasons of medical or financial privacy. Finally, Burke argued that the benefit error audit that this bill would require is unnecessary and unfeasible, as while the “VBA has numerous independent systems for the many benefits provided (Compensation, Education, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, etc.), [n]one of these systems currently have the capability to delineate the amount of debt due to the Veteran’s lack of/delayed response or VA benefit error.”

This legislation passed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee by voice vote with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. French Hill (R-AR).


Of Note: The current method of processing dependency changes and communications errors between outdated IT systems has caused a rise in overpayments to veterans. Under current law, these overpayments are considered debts to the U.S., and the recipient is responsible for repaying them regardless of whose error caused it (their own or the VA’s). Consequently, VA notifies the recipient of the amount of the outstanding debt, and the beneficiary must: pay in full, establish a repayment plan, or request a hardship waiver to reduce the debt amount. If a veteran doesn’t respond to the VA’s attempts to notify them of the outstanding debts, the VA notifies credit reporting agencies of the debt.

Often, the VA attempts to recover these overpayments by withholding veterans’ monthly benefit checks, directly impacting the 1.4 million veterans struggling with poverty across the country (including 40,056 homeless veterans on any given night). 

The VA reports that it already has processes in place to correct erroneous information it sends to credit reporting agencies, and that it’s working to provide electronic debt notifications (however, this system won’t be functional until 2022).


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / CatLane)

AKA

VA Overpayment Accountability Act

Official Title

To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the due process accorded veterans with respect to recovery of overpayments made by the Department and other amounts owed by veterans to the United States, to improve the processing of veterans benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedSeptember 17th, 2019
    This bill may be duplicative of existing laws. However, specifically mandating the VA to correct the error with credit bureaus, a US government agency, puts some clout onto clearing credit records due to VA mistakes. I wholeheartedly support this. It is very difficult for most people to correct minor errors in their credit reporting let alone impactful errors such as these. Make the VA accountable for their mistakes- do not put it on vets to assume the role of accountants and lawyers in having to file endless claims and documentation.
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    The VA made the error. A vet suffering from a disability may not be able to handle the accounting and find the error on their own. They are trying to survive the day, or cope with the next hour. They should not be punished for the government’s error.
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    Are veterans truly overpaid? No, they should not be victimized by credit ratings especially if it was not their fault.
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    The answer is in the question - VA error. So no one’s credit should be impacted.
    Like (13)
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    The vet isn’t responsible. The overpaid GS employee that set up the payment is at fault, that is where the blame should be placed. Somebody is worried about 6 million dollars over a 4 year period, but will overlook 300 billion each year in redundant programs. Somebody needs to go back to 3D grade arithmetic.
    Like (11)
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    They barely get enough to live on! Why should they also be punished for some bureaucrats mistake? Isn't it enough they were willing to risk life and limb for us?
    Like (8)
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    As a VETERAN I would thank you for a “YES” vote on this matter. Thank you.
    Like (8)
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    Veterans should not be hurt.
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    If the Government makes an error, that's on them. No one, especially Veterans, should be punished for errors by the Government / VA. It's unreasonable and unfair.
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    Yes they should
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    Is there a reason why they shouldn’t?
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    The VA screwed up, why should the Vet get screwed?
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    Why not?
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    Do your job and hold people accountable!
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    I was affected by this by having to pay 800.00 a month in repayment garnishments of my disability check because of an overpayment which has messed up my credit. How was I supposed to know I was getting over payed?! I have been paying this fee for a year on top of child support, rent, and regular expenses.
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    If Veterans are overpaid, it’s not on them! Talk to any Veteran receiving benefits...it’s complicated. When they call to get things explained, they are often left with more questions than answers. If the government makes the mistake and “overpays” a veteran, it should not affect his/her credit at all!
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    This happened to me and was absolutely outrageous
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    If it wasn’t their fault they shouldn’t face consequences. Also I feel like veterans in general aren’t overpaid.
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    Vets over paid by the VA should not
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    A no brained. So use yours.
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