Is Mom responsible for paying back VA pension if the VA made the mistake?

2 answers | Last updated: Aug 07, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My Dad passed away in 2000. My mom started drawing his VA shortly after. In 2006 she started getting widow's pension through Social Security in which she put on the paperwork that she received his VA. After receiving the first widows pension check from Social Security, we called the VA office and reported it. We were told that it was noted and we didn't have to do anything else.

Now, almost 4 years later, she receives a letter saying that her VA will be cut off due to failure to report her Social Security benefits. We called and talked to a VA representative and from what we were told, she will have to pay back money.

Can you give us any advice or contacts that can help us through this nightmare? She barely makes it on the income from both of these checks.

Expert Answers

Rita Files, LPN, VSR, a nationally recognized expert on the elderly, has more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry, with 20 years focused on eldercare. She has developed programs for many leading providers in the senior living industry. Accredited through the V.A. in veterans' benefits, she is an advocate and powerful resource committed to educating veterans and their families about the nonservice connected pension benefit and providing them with accurate information. She is cofounder and COO of Aging with Grace.

When dealing with the issue of paying the VA back for overpayment, you should not go it alone. You should contact a veterans service organization that will provide a service organization representative, also known as a veterans service officer at no cost. Service organizations include AMVETS, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America, etc. or visit your local VA office.This should be done ASAP to insure a timely response to the letter you received from the VA.

It is always best to communicate with the VA in writing and not rely on telephone communication. In fact, it is advisable to send all letters to the VA by certified mail, return-receipt-requested and keep a record and copies of all letters and communications sent by you to the VA.

I suggest reviewing VA Form 21-0790 for more details about your rights to representation and a hearing in the case of possible overpayment.

Community Answers

Vietwarriorvet answered...

Approximately 8 years ago I became disabled and had an application in for SS disability payments. In the meantime...I went to the VA representative in my area and he arranged to get me a monthly payment until SS checks started up. When I got my first SS disability check..I immediately called the VA office in Philadelphia and informed them I was getting those checks and that I was giving them this information so that they could stop the VA payments. I was told by the person on the phone that I was still eligible to get the VA check in addition to the SS disability. I told him tha I did not think that was correct and asked him to please check with someone higher up . He put me on hold and when he got back on the line he said that the other party agreed that the VA checks would continue to come for the rest of my life. I again told him I thought he was wrong and I ask him to make a notification on my record that I questioned the continuation of the payment because I thought he was wrong and I did not want any repercussion later and him putting a notation down would eliminate me getting blamed for a possible mistake. He put me on hold again and when he got back on the phone stated that he had indeed made my requested notation questioning further payments. He proceeded to inform me that many vets were not aware that these payments could and would be made for the rest of my life. As I hung up the phone...he had me convinced that I was eligible for continuation of the payments. I was 22 years old at the time and thought that this guy must know what he is talking about and I apparently did not. 8-9 years have gone by and the payments kept coming and I just went on with my life. 1 day I got a notification from the VA that I was overpaid that money for over 8 years and requested I pay them back. I had someone look into the records that were suppose to have been made(in writing on my records) about me questioning and stating that I did not think they were right...8 years ago. I now have a request for a waiver since I feel that I did all I could to question the payments and the representative ha me convinced that the payments were...indeed...correct. Now I am at their mercy apparently. I am now 69...100% disabled and have no way to pay them back unless they take my entire SS checks at which point I will be homeless and without any money whatsoever.