Recently many of our clients have been receiving letters from the VA regarding their pension or disability benefits. You or your spouse may have also received a VA letter saying they were going to adjust your benefit. In this blog we’ll go through a few of the letters our clients have received and discuss how we plan on responding to these letters.
VA Letter #1: Termination of an Old Bank Account
The first VA letter that we’ll discuss here was received by a widow whose deceased husband was a Veteran in Pearl Harbor. This letter started with the VA apologizing for delays caused by COVID. It says they were unable to audit the client’s Social Security and other financial information through the Internal Revenue Service so they could verify her financial information. But now that they’re starting to work through these files post-COVID, they’ve done the audit.
During that audit they found that they were was a bank account in 2019 that acquired interest and was not reported. The VA letter threatens to terminate the client’s benefits if she doesn’t provide an explanation for this bank account interest. The big problem here is that we didn’t file for benefits until 2020, but the VA is looking at something that happened in 2019.
Now I will give the VA some credit here. The transfer rule changed in 2018 and now they have a three year look back period for asset transfers. This helps to ensure that people aren’t transferring or hiding assets so that they can still qualify for VA benefits that are income-related.
But in this case the Veteran has passed and the bank account mentioned in this VA letter was closed prior to his passing. He closed the account before his passing and now his widow has moved from town. She’s living somewhere else, but the VA wants us to dig through old records from 2019. We’ve already told them that we don’t have any of that information, but they are being very persistent.
VA Letter #2: Social Security Benefit Increases
The next VA letter requests more information from the client regarding medical reimbursements. In this letter the VA states that they’ve checked with the IRS and found that the client’s Social Security benefits have increased. This makes sense because Social Security benefits were increased by 6.2% effective January of this year. But the VA fails to recognize the 16% increase in Medicare premiums that far offset any Social Security increases.
So the VA is trying to decrease this client’s VA benefits because they are now receiving more Social Security each month, but they’re neglecting the increase in Medicare premiums. I don’t understand how they can use IRS data to discover Social Security increases but cannot also realize that the Medicare premiums were significantly increased. I think this is poor planning on the part of the VA. They should be able to reconcile both Social Security and Medicare increases so they’re not bothering Veterans with these letters.
VA Letter #3: Reducing Survivors Pension
This next VA letter is absolutely ridiculous. Here the VA states that they have adjusted our client’s survivors pension based on some income that they didn’t report. They say that they’ve adjusted the pension based on recent regulations. The ridiculous part is that the interest left off the application was only $0.14! So the VA writes a six page letter to our client explaining why they’re adjusting income based on $0.14 of interest that was not reported. These are the kinds of things the VA has going for you.
Contact Us So We Can Help!
If you have received a VA letter like this where they’re asking questions and wanting more detail, we can help. Please complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. You can also send us an email to [email protected].
We deal with these VA letters every single day and we understand what they want. If you’re planning on responding to a VA letter on your own, just be very careful. But we know how to respond so that you can protect your benefits. Our goal is always to maximize your VA benefits, not to have them reduced.
The VA is not very well-organized. They are always slow to process claims. They blame it on COVID, but I’m not sure that’s a valid excuse. Many people are now working from home and so they should be able to process claims and responses in a timely manner.
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