Veterans Affairs officials are once again extending the suspension of benefit debt for veterans facing financial hardship, this time until the end of 2022.
The decision, announced Monday, covers liabilities related to disability award overpayments, errors in education benefits and pension payments unrelated to service-related injuries. People who owe money won’t have to pay it back until early 2023 if they can prove the move would cause financial hardship.
“Helping veterans manage, repay and, in some cases, eliminate their debt is one of our top priorities,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Extending this hardship suspension is a key part of this critical effort, and it will help ease the burden on veterans living with debt.”
In April 2020, VA officials stopped collecting benefit debts as part of a series of measures designed to alleviate problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last fall, department heads announced they would resume collections, but offered continued relief to veterans facing financial hardship. This authority was due to expire on September 30, but will now be extended for another three months until the end of the year.
Officials said the decision was not made this time because of the ongoing pandemic, but rather in response to inflationary pressures on family finances. Veterans potentially affected by the move should expect debt notification letters to arrive in the mail in the coming weeks.
Joseph Schmitt, director of the VA’s Debt Management Center, said officials have also taken several steps in recent years to simplify the debt collection process, to include more options for veterans to apply. partial or total forgiveness of the debt.
These steps include creating a new website for veterans to verify their accounts and view debt repayment options. More than 1.3 million veterans have visited the site over the past 20 months.
Veterans can also contact the Debt Management Center at 800-827-0648 to discuss options with VA staff members.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.