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

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 Answer

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.