gettyimages 840633620 VA suspends debt collection in hurricane damaged areas

Twenty and five dollar bills are displayed on August 29, 2017 in San Anselmo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

If you are a veteran and your home of record is in a FEMA declared hurricane disaster area, Veterans Affairs has suspended debt collection for you. Anyone, including survivors and family members of veterans, will not be subjected to active collection efforts until March 2018.

“There are millions of veterans impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria,” said Financial Program Administrator Joe Schmitt in VA’s Vantage Point blog. “VA’s Debt Management Center is partnering with Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and the Treasury Department in order to work out a process to suspend collections for veterans who live in FEMA disaster areas.”

Veterans can find out if they live in a FEMA declared disaster area by going here.  “Those veterans who have been displaced and can’t return home, need to know they must update their contact information with us or the post office,” Schmitt said.  You can contact VA’s Debt Management Center directly with your new contact info, or reach out to the Veterans Experience Division by calling (800) 827-0648.

In similar news, a bill was introduced to Congress last month that will make the VA’s debt collection process easier to understand.  The Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act would require VA to use certified mail when sending debt notices.  If it becomes law, it instructs VA use plain language in its debt notices and give a clear explanation of why the veteran owes money in the first place.

As it stands now, when VBA issues a debt notice, there is no way to certify that the veteran actually receives the notice. Also if VBA’s system isn’t up to date with contact information, veterans may not be aware that they actually own the VA money until money is deducted from a benefits check.

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