One of my most important jobs as your senator is listening to the Ohioans I represent. The best ideas don’t come out of Washington — they come from conversations with Ohioans, like Massillon veteran, James Powers.
I first met James last July, when he came to the coffee my office hosts for Ohio constituents every Thursday in Washington, and his story inspired new legislation to stop veterans from having to pay for the VA’s accounting mistakes.
Before James retired in 2016, he started to receive disability pay, but he noticed the Army was still paying him his active duty salary. He caught the mistake, and did the honorable thing and notified the VA. But the VA continued overpaying him — and then they charged him twice to recoup the over-payments.
The staff in my office worked with the VA to resolve James’s issue, but this should never have happened in the first place. Veterans shouldn’t have to worry that if their paycheck is incorrect through no fault of their own, they’ll pay the price.
So I introduced a bill to ban the VA from charging veterans like James for its own mistaken over-payments.
My bill, the Veterans’ Debt Fairness Act, would also protect veterans who depend on their benefits by capping the amount the VA can deduct from a veteran’s monthly payment, and it would ban the VA from collecting debts more than five years old.
Veterans have dealt with enough stress already — they shouldn’t be forced to pay for the VA’s accounting slip-ups.
James’ story is all too common. In 2016 alone, the VA issued more than 200,000 over-payment notices to veterans. When this happens, the agency often tries to get its money back by withholding some or all of the monthly disability payments that our veterans have earned. That’s why I introduced my legislation to fix this problem for all our heroes.
Veterans sacrifice so much already to serve our country. They shouldn’t be paying for the mistakes of the agency that’s supposed to serve them.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.
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