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Veterans' Benefits: From Prison to Prosperity

Veteran News
Veteran News
September 28, 2016
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Imprisoned veterans received more than $100 million in improper benefits payments in the past several years because Veterans Affairs officials were focused on the claims backlog, according to a new report from the inspector general.Officials from the Veterans Benefits Administration, which is separate from the VA and deals exclusively with benefits payments, said that the Bureau of Prisons provides improper or incomplete information. Beth Murphy, director of the VBA’s compensation service, said that she is working on fixing the problem.“We do not get the date of incarceration from (the Bureau of Prisons),” she told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Tuesday. “We have to follow up on this. There are manual processes and time lags in getting this information.”The law states that veterans who are in prison or jail for more than 60 days are only entitled to compensation equaling the 10 percent disability rating, regardless of their allotted percentage.If a veteran is already at 10 percent, they receive 5 percent. After they are released, they are paid the full benefits again.


Unclear if Benefits Payments Will Need to Be Repaid

“We found that VBA did not process federal incarceration adjustments primarily because they did not place priority on incarceration adjustments, as they do not consider these non-rating claims part of the disability claims backlog,” said Mike Missal, the VA inspector general.Reducing the backlog of claims was a major focus of the VBA in recent years. The number of cases that took four months or more to process was around 611,000 in 2013. Today, it’s around 75,000.Some lawmakers find the news of misallocated payments disturbing.“The veterans who received these overpayments have committed crimes, but the overpayments are not their fault,” said Rep. Ralph Abraham, chairman of the House Veterans Committee’s subcommittee on disability assistance. “Nothing excuses VA for failing to do its job.”

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