We have just finished honoring our military servicemen and women on Memorial Day, the holiday where we pay homage to our veterans who have died serving this country. But in addition to such celebrations, we can do more by insisting that our veterans be treated fairly by the department in charge of their care. The scandal involving the hospitals and medical clinics operated by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has been heavily reported on in the last few years. But another significant malfeasance by the VA concerns the department’s efforts to collect monies back from our veterans for over payments, oftentimes the fault of the VA itself.
Over Payments to the VA
Overpayments occur when the federal department assigned to issuing benefits to recipients pays more than the recipient is actually due. This can happen with social security benefits and VA benefits, among others. In most cases, the veteran is unaware they are receiving more benefits than they are due or a mistake is actually made in the calculations of benefits by the VA itself.
VA Over Payment Horror Stories
Scott Oswell died in a helicopter crash after serving 16 years in the military. His wife began receiving survivor benefits for their children. When she remarried, she advised the VA 7 times of this fact but the VA failed to inform the Department of Defense. Eight years later she was advised by the VA that she had been overpaid $177,000.00. She received no notice of any problem whatsoever with an overpayment during the intervening 8 years. To resolve this, Mr. Oswell’s widow had to repay the debt out of the children’s college fund.
Harold Boons served his country for 34 years. After being assured he would receive GI benefits to obtain his college degree, Mr. Boons used his credit cards to pay for his tuition and books while he waited for his benefits to begin. Not only was he later advised he would NOT receive GI benefits for college but also informed he had been overpaid $15,000.00 in VA benefits for which the VA turned him over to a collection agency. He had no choice but to drop out of school as a result.
Monique Rodriquez received VA disability as a result of injury during her time of service. When she was informed an over payment of her benefits had occurred, the collection of same was inconsistent from month to month and made it impossible for her to plan for the payment of her monthly bills.
Issues with the Defense Finance and Accounting Services
For any service member or veteran who has ever had to deal with stopping an over payment garnishment through the Defense Finance and Accounting Services –DFAS- my sympathies are with you. As a lawyer I am never ignored more completely than when I am trying to assist my clients with issues related to DFAS. My advice to anyone struggling with DFAS is to immediately contact your congressional representative and your senators to assist you in this effort. Our veterans deserve better. If we as a nation can ask them to risk their lives and limbs in service to our country, then it is only right that we take good, conscientious care of them when they return from that service.
Most debts related to over payment of VA benefits are dischargeable in bankruptcy. If you are struggling with this issue and wish to consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney about the possibility of discharging this obligation in bankruptcy, please contact one of our locations nearest you in Alabama, Mississippi or Tennessee for a free, confidential consultation.
Carla M. Handy is the Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Gadsden and Anniston, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. She has been helping families navigate consumer bankruptcy cases since 1994.Read her full bio here.