COVID-19’s impact on veterans is not slowing down but the Department of Veterans Affairs is going ahead with its plan to restart collections for care. The agency’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs announced Wednesday that it would resume overpayment notifications for benefit overpayments that were suspended from April 3 through Jan. 1, 2021.
Secretary Robert Wilkie said veterans and beneficiaries who still are experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic still will have access to certain enhanced relief options as a result.
VA deferred collection of these overpayments during to the COVID-19 pandemic, including suspending all actions on veteran’s debts under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department, and suspending collections or extending repayments for preexisting VA debts.
As such, veterans could submit their paperwork late for purposes of perfecting claims, challenging adverse decisions, submitting “notices of disagreement,” submitting “substantive appeals,” and if responding to “supplemental statements of the case.”
“These include extending repayment plans, waivers, compromises and temporary hardship suspensions,” Wilkie said in a statement. “Most importantly, the department will pause collections through October 2021 for veterans who remain in financial hardship and request relief.”
Since April 6, VA put monthly copay patient statements on hold, although veterans could make payments before the statements restart next month. The statements going out in January may include the total amount of any new copay charges for medical care and prescriptions received from April 6 through Dec. 31, and unpaid copay charges for medical care and prescriptions received before April 2020.
The department said it was processing benefits payments as normal and that it would not count any money received as part of the COVID-19 stimulus package as income for VA disability compensation, individual unemployability, VA pension, or parent Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) beneficiaries.
Veterans and beneficiaries with questions regarding benefit overpayments can submit requests online through the Inquiry Routing and Information System (IRIS), which has staff assigned to individual cases. Beneficiaries can also call 800-827-0648, but VA’s Debt Management Center said on its website as of Thursday, Dec. 31, it was struggling with high call volume due to the COVID-19 debt suspension notifications.
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