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H.R. 3705, Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act of 2017, as amended

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, the House will consider H.R. 3705, the Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act of 2017, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 3705 was introduced on September 7, 2017, by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which ordered the bill reported by voice vote on November 2, 2017.


Summary

H.R. 3705 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) work with Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to develop new notification letter that, in plain language, clearly explain why such alleged debt was created, and the steps the veteran can take to dispute or mitigate the debt. The bill would also require the VA to research the number of veterans who do not receive debt notification letters and provide a report to Congress detailing the steps the VA can adopt to reduce the number of notices sent to incorrect addresses and provide a timeline for adopting such options.


Background

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) issues a debt notice to veterans due to overpayments of benefits or other situations in which the veteran has accrued debts with VBA. After these notices are mailed, there is no verification that the veteran has received the notice[1]. Additionally, if the veteran’s contact information is not up-to-date in VBA’s system, they may never receive the notice. This results in veterans defaulting on their finances for failure to pay a debt they were unaware of in a timely manner. Further, the veterans may miss deadlines to appeal the debt, apply for a waiver or set up a payment plan[2]. 

According to the bill’s sponsor, “Too many veterans don’t learn about their possible debts with the VA until it’s too late for them to take action. That’s simply unacceptable, especially in light of the commonsense changes that can be made to make sure veterans are properly notified. [This bill] is an important first step in addressing this problem, giving clear and timely information to veterans about their rights and steps they can take to resolve their debt.[3]"


Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the costs would be insignificant in the 2018-2022 period.


Staff Contact

For questions or further information please contact Dominique Yantko with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 3-1555.


[1] See H.R. 3705 Background Memo.
[2] See Rep. Pingree’s Press Release, November 2017.
[3] Id. 

115th Congress