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In the past year, a number of veterans or widows residing in the area served by this newspaper and receiving VA pensions were notified their benefits were to be stopped until an over payment they received had been paid.
In nearly all cases, the VA decision was based on a change in the family income, the loss of a dependent, or a change in net worth which had not been reported to VA, or had been reported late. When any of these events occur, or for that matter, any change in the status of dependents, income or net worth, the recipient of VA is required to promptly notify VA so as to prevent and over payment or possibly an underpayment in benefits.
It is important for you protect your benefits by keeping VA informed of changes which could affect the amount of compensation or pension benefits you receive. These changes include:
• Change in the number of dependents
• Death of a spouse or dependent child
• Adoption of child
• Change of address
• Change in income received from sources other than VA
• Change in martial status
• Recipient of benefits meets medical criteria for housebound benefits
• Recipient of benefits meets medical criteria for Aid & Attendance benefits
Failure to inform VA of changes may result in your receiving more, or less, benefits than entitled. When an over payment occurs VA may reduce, or stop your benefits until the dollar amount equal to the over payment has been recovered. If you were receiving fewer benefits than entitled, VA will adjust your benefits starting with the date they are notified of the change resulting in your eligibility for additional compensation or pension.
When VA discovers that a veteran or a beneficiary has been over paid, the recipient will be notified by letter of the amount and the reason for the over payment. The recipient will be advised that he or she has 60 days in which to submit evidence showing why VA should not make the proposed adjustments to their benefit payment.
You can resolve the over payment situation in one of two ways. First, if you agree with the actions proposed by VA, you should send a written statement expressing your agreement and requesting an immediate adjustment to your benefits. Or second, if you do not agree, but want to avoid the possibility of being over paid during the 60 day grace period, you can still submit a written statement requesting an immediate adjustment. If the second option is requested and the final review shows that the change should not be made, your payments will be reinstated from the date when the adjustments were made.
Do not, repeat do not, ignore VA correspondence advising you of an over payment in your benefits. If you do not respond, the matter will be referred to the United States Attorney for appropriate legal action. If this occurs you will be charged a one time administrative fee and possibly additional fees for U.S. Marshal Service, court cost, and interest.
You should also be aware VA conducts computer checks with the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security in an effort to prevent over payment situations from occurring. Unfortunately these computer checks are usually a couple of years behind and this can result in an accumulation of a substantial over payment before you are notified by VA. When you file your annual Eligibility Verification Report or, when you apply for any VA benefit you should be as accurate as possible concerning income, the number and status of your dependents.
You may also request the entire debt be waived. This normally occurs when the over payment was not the fault of the recipient. The debt may also be waived when monthly expenses exceed monthly income and are expected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Waiver may also be granted if it can be documented that repayment would result in extreme hardship for the recipient.
In closing this article I must tell you that I am resigning as your Service Officer effective on my 80th birthday on April 7. I have served as a volunteer veteran’s service officer since September 1993, first in Cumberland County Tennessee and in Lynchburg since 2007.It has been an honor to serve you and assist you with navigating the sometimes complex route in filing a claim.
You will be pleased to know the Service Office will remain open and be staffed by Bobby G. Kibler who I have selected and trained in preparation for operating the office and being certified as a Service Officer. He will continue to have the same phone number as listed below that I have had since 2010
For more information contact VA at (800) 827-1000 or the Service Officer for American Legion Post 16 ,DAV Chapter 8 and, VFW Post 8184 at (434) 401-7335 for assistance. The office, located in American Legion Post 16 home at 1301 Greenview Drive, Lynchburg, is open for walk-ins 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and, by appointment on Thursdays.
Source for this article: VA Booklet “Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents.” 2011 edition.