Veterans' Benefits:

VA Can Prevent Millions in Compensation and Pension Overpayments

HEHS-95-88: Published: Apr 28, 1995. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) efforts to prevent, detect, and recover compensation and pension overpayments.

GAO found that: (1) in 1994, VA detected about $372 million in overpayments to its beneficiaries mainly due to changes in income, particularly changes related to social security benefits; (2) although VA recovers about 30 percent of its overpayments, its outstanding overpayment balance was about $618 million in 1994; (3) many beneficiaries do not have the resources to repay the overpayments; (4) although VA has the capability to prevent many overpayments, it has not focused on overpayment prevention; (5) VA needs to better coordinate its beneficiary information with that of the Social Security Administration; and (6) VA does not systematically collect, analyze, and use information on the specific causes of overpayments to target its preventive efforts.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To better prevent compensation and pension overpayments, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to establish procedures that focus on preventing overpayments that include identifying beneficiaries who will soon become eligible for social security benefits and obtaining the necessary information to timely adjust their benefit payments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA installed programming changes that will change the issuance date of letters to beneficiaries with income-related benefits to 2 months before they become age 60, 62, or 65, as appropriate. GAO estimated that VA could have prevented as much as $52 million of overpayments in 1994 by establishing such procedures. However, VA could not determine or reliably estimate the actual dollar amounts to be saved in subsequent years.

    Recommendation: To better prevent compensation and pension overpayments, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Under Secretary for Benefits to collect, analyze, and use information on the specific causes or contributing factors of overpayments to develop strategies for targeting additional preventive efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to VA, it has plans to update its computer system as part of its modernization effort to improve, among other things, the identification of the causes of overpayments. The modernization effort is part of an overall VBA business process reengineering effort, which will take several years to implement. VA has closed this recommendation and is no longer tracking it.

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