This may sound like the start of a bad joke because it is so difficult to receive any type of benefit from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, Veterans and family members do receive collection letters from VA. This VA debt-collection correspondence is issued by VA’s Debt Management Center, or DMC.
The DMC has recently become quite aggressive about identifying and collecting on debt – even if it’s not really debt. DMC’s new “activism” is primarily a result of unfair atmospheric concerns that Veterans and their families are gaming VA’s benefits system to obtain an undeserved free ride.
I just received a letter which appears to be from VA’s Debt Management Center (DMC)? What do I do?
- DON’T panic.
- DO contact us immediately. Call to let us know you have received a letter from the DMC.
- To ensure you continue receiving VA benefits at your current rate, VA MUST RECEIVE your response no later than 30 days from the date on its notice letter.
- We can help you craft the appropriate response to preserve your benefits and rights.
- DO NOT pay anything. DO NOT provide any debit, bank account, or checking information.
- In this modern age of scams, one shouldn’t assume that an official-looking letter is a legitimate letter.
- We can tell you if the letter is legitimate.
How can an attorney help me?
- Help ensure you continue to receive your current benefits by filing an appropriate response to VA’s Debt Notice
- Challenge VA’s notice, reasoning, and help correct any prejudicial errors VA may have made.
- Represent you at any hearing to resolve the disputed benefits issues.
- Some websites recommend you submit a VA Form 21-4138 and VA Form 5655 in response to a DMC notice. These recommendations are well-intentioned. But, as with any submission to VA, if your response doesn’t contain certain “magic words,” it can do more harm than good.
What happens if I wait to see what VA does?
- If you dispute VA’s debt notice within 30 days of the date on the first Debt Management Center notice VA must continue to pay you in full until the dispute is resolved. Lesson? Respond – properly – within 30 days and preserve your benefits!
- If you do not respond to VA within 30 days of the DMC’s first notice to you, VA will start withholding all or part of your monthly benefits. When that happens, you will have to wait until the dust settles on your challenge to finally be made whole. Of course, the challenge process can take several years – during which time you will be receiving fewer, or no, benefits. No one needs to spell out the devastation that will cause you and your family.
Why would VA send me a debt notice?
There are many reasons. Often, VA makes a mistake. But, sometimes the Veteran or a family member simply doesn’t know about new financial circumstances to report to VA. A couple of common scenarios that can trigger debt notices from VA are:
Scenario 1: Veteran receives VA pension benefits. Veteran now starts receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Neither Veteran or his spouse realize they’re supposed to report the SSDI income to VA.
- VA should be doing these matches automatically, since it has access to SSDI information. However, it doesn’t and puts the burden on the Veteran to provide it with an update. Whenever VA does get around to doing its computer match, usually months or years have gone by and the Veteran is suddenly walloped with a huge debt notice from VA.
Scenario 2: Veteran’s daughter is taking classes under a GI Bill education program. Her school mistakenly tells VA she is taking “5” credits. They meant “15” credits. Daughter’s school has since corrected its mistake internally but hasn’t notified VA.
- VA can be aggressive about sending debt-collection notices if it believes a dependent is suddenly taking fewer courses than VA has paid for. While understandable, an erroneous debt-collection notice – particularly involving a student – can create panic and fear.
- Alert your dependents to contact you IMMEDIATELY if they ever receive a notice from VA’s DMC.
- Remind them of the 30-day time bomb ticking to get an appropriate notice to VA’s DMC.
Any notice from VA should not be ignored. It won’t improve with time. The good news is, by taking prompt, early action, you are in the best position to maintain or improve your benefits situation. DON’T WAIT. Contact the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. today to a FREE consultation.
Getting assistance with response to a DMC-issued debt notice is easy! Contact our results-focused team today for your FREE consultation. The Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. is a VA-accredited law firm.