The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it will extend its moratorium on all benefit and medical copay debt collections through at least Sept. 30, 2021.
The move to extend the moratorium through the end of the fiscal year is part of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief plan, first published in an executive order late last month.
That order, which extended the Trump administration’s executive action of April 2020, directed all executive branch agencies to take whatever administrative action necessary to assist those economically damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VA has not collected any medical copayments since the Trump executive order was released; it also has not sent bills to veterans who owe the department money for copayments or benefit overpayments.
“My top priority right now is to do everything in our power to help our veterans, caregivers and their families get through this challenging COVID-19 pandemic,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a news release. “VA will continue to find ways to provide real relief to 2 million veterans and their families as we fight through this health crisis together.”
Some veterans must make copayments for VA-provided health care and prescriptions, depending on their Priority Group or the medical condition being treated. Normally, service-connected medical conditions are treated by the VA for free; for veterans with higher disability levels or those of limited means all medical care may be free of charge.
Letters sent out late last year notified veterans of the VA’s intent to begin collecting the deferred payments in January 2021, but many veterans did not receive information showing how much those debts were or any instructions on how to make the payments. The department now says it will apprise veterans of details on their current debt and options available to them for repaying it or seeking financial relief.
Veterans will also have the option to make no payments until September, should they desire.
According to the VA, affected veterans and beneficiaries with queries about benefit overpayments can check its website for frequently asked questions, submit questions online or call 800-827-0648 for assistance. Call volume is generally lower Tuesday through Friday.
For health care copayment debts, veterans should contact the Health Resource Center at 866-400-1238 about payments.