H.R. 3705 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) work with Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to develop new notification letter that, in plain language, clearly explain why such alleged debt was created, and the steps the veteran can take to dispute or mitigate the debt. The bill would also require the VA to research the number of veterans who do not receive debt notification letters and provide a report to Congress detailing the steps the VA can adopt to reduce the number of notices sent to incorrect addresses and provide a timeline for adopting such options.
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) issues a debt notice to veterans due to overpayments of benefits or other situations in which the veteran has accrued debts with VBA. After these notices are mailed, there is no verification that the veteran has received the notice. Additionally, if the veteran’s contact information is not up-to-date in VBA’s system, they may never receive the notice. This results in veterans defaulting on their finances for failure to pay a debt they were unaware of in a timely manner. Further, the veterans may miss deadlines to appeal the debt, apply for a waiver or set up a payment plan.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Nov 8, 2017.
(This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the House on November 7, 2017. The summary of that version is repeated here.)
Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act of 2017
(Sec. 2) This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to collaborate with veterans service organizations to write a standard letter to be provided to individuals who owe debts to the VA. Such letter shall be written in plain language and shall include a notice of the debt and a clear explanation of: (1) why the individual owes such money, and (2) available options.
The VA shall develop a method by which individuals may elect to receive debt notification letters by electronic means and shall ensure that the letter is delivered: (1) by both standard mail and electronic means to individuals who have made such election, and (2) only by standard mail to individuals who have not made such election.
The VA shall: (1) notify Congress regarding the completion of such letter, and (2) study and report to Congress on the process by which it notifies veterans of debt collection efforts.