The move, announced Monday, covers debts related to disability compensation overpayments, education benefits mistakes and pension payouts not related to service-connected injuries. Individuals who owe money will not have to pay it back until early 2023 if they can show the move would cause financial hardship.
“Helping Veterans manage, pay off 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 that critical effort, and it will help ease the burden for veterans who are living with debt.”
In April 2020, VA officials stopped collecting the benefits debts as part of a series of moves designed to ease issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last fall, department leaders announced they would resume collections, but offered continued relief for veterans facing financial difficulties. That authority was scheduled to expire Sept. 30, but will now be extended three more months to the end of the year.
Officials said the move this time was made not because of the ongoing pandemic, but instead in response to inflation pressures on family finances. Veterans potentially affected by the move should expect debt notification letters to arrive by mail in coming weeks.
Joseph Schmitt, director of 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 for partial or full debt forgiveness.
Those steps include establishing a new web site for veterans to check their accounts and see options for debt repayment. More than 1.3 million veterans have visited the site in the last 20 months.
Veterans can also contact the Debt Management Center at 800-827-0648 to discuss options with VA staffers.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.