Social Security COLA’s And VA Debt Letters

What’s happening with the VA and Cost of Living Adjustment’s?

A few years ago the Department of Veterans Affairs required that all Pension recipients complete an Eligibility Verification Report.  The VA used the EVR to ensure Pension recipients were still eligible for the benefits they were receiving.

Veterans and surviving spouses were asked to update income, net worth, and medical expenses.  The VA wanted this information even if income, net worth, and medical expenses hadn’t changed.

The reasoning behind re-establishing eligibility is sound.  People’s financial and medical situations change all the time, after all.  When tax-payer dollars are at stake, maintaining the integrity of the Pension program is a reasonable aim.

Then something wonderful happened.  The VA no longer demanded that Pension recipients complete the annual EVR.  With the huge backlog of VA claims, the Department decided resources would be better spent disposing of original applications.

The VA replaced the EVR with a letter to each Pension recipient.  The letter asked the veteran or surviving spouse to report any change that would affect eligibility.

One change recipients didn’t have to report, however, was Cost of Living Adjustments.

But Department of Veterans Affairs policy is changing.  Debt letters (i.e. over-payment letters) are being mailed out daily by the VA.  The letters state that due to Social Security COLA’s, veterans and surviving spouses have been overpaid.

The over-payments can only be described as minimal.  Sometimes the VA claims an over-payment of ten dollars, sometimes twenty dollars.

Is there some reasoning behind this new COLA development?  Some strand of logic?

My opinion is that the new COLA development is a continuation of a trend.  The VA is becoming more restrictive.  With communication between the VA and Social Security and the VA and the IRS increasing, we are seeing more debt letters and over-payments.

I believe all the interaction between agencies is a slow build-up to a VA Look-Back Law.

Systems are tested.  Procedures are vetted.  The manpower necessary to incorporate a Look-Back Law will be massive.  The VA needs to work out as many kinks as possible before the law passes both levels of Congress.

In the meantime, debt letters are mailed.  While the COLA debt letters can basically be ignored, they still worry people.  No one likes to receive a letter from the VA unless they are waiting for an award.

The VA will withhold the amount from the next direct deposit.  If the recipient really wants the 20 dollars returned, they can always claim unreimbured medical expenses at the end of the year.

The point here is not the ten or twenty dollars the VA will withhold from a recipients next check.  The point is the coming Look-Back Law and all the red-tape and delays that can be expected.