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Video: VA tells Marine vet to pay back over $100,000

The entrance to the Edward P. Boland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican/TNS)
November 23, 2023

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) recently informed a Marine veteran from Sarasota County, Florida, that he would be required to pay back over $100,000 that he received in payments from the department due to the veteran collecting Social Security during the same time period he was receiving pension payments from the VA.

71-year-old Patrick McFeely, a Marine veteran, told 10 Tampa Bay WTSP he recently received a letter from the VA, stating, “Your entitlement to compensation and pension benefits has changed. As a result, you were paid $108,094 more than you’re entitled.”

10 Tampa Bay WTSP reported that the VA will reportedly withhold McFeely’s monthly pension funds in order to recover the $108,094 in overpaid funds.

“My partner passed away and so I decided to move down here,” McFeely told the outlet. “And I’ve been loving it down here.”

The Marine veteran said that between Social Security and VA payments he has been receiving roughly $2,400 a month, which he indicated was just enough to live on.

Reading the letter he received to 10 Tampa Bay WTSP, McFeely said, “Your entitlement to compensation and pension benefits has changed. As a result, you were paid $108,094 more than you’re entitled.”

“When I called I got the runaround and them saying that it’s because I collect Social Security and they didn’t know it,” McFeely explained.. “They said I didn’t report it, but what is documented that they know I was collecting Social Security at the time.”

In addition to the documentation, McFeely said the VA did not notify him until almost a decade after he started receiving Social Security payments. As a result, McFeely received approximately $10,000 in overpayments each year, adding up to the current total of well over $100,000.

“I’m hand to mouth. I’m going to be 72 in January so it’s a little bit late to try to collect $108,000 from me,” McFeely said.

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In a statement, VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes told 10 Tampa Bay WTSP that the department had an issue for roughly 11 years that caused the department to be unable to verify the income of U.S. veterans.

“Between 2011 and 2022, due to discrepancies in data matching, VA was unable to reliably verify the self-reported federal income of Veterans and survivors receiving pensions,” Hayes stated. “When income verification resumed in July 2022, roughly 9,900 beneficiaries were determined to have higher income levels than self-reported. This resulted in VA pension overpayments which – in some cases – spanned many years.”

McFeely explained that he did not report to the VA when he started collecting Social Security because he was unaware that he had to inform the department and he assumed that the department would notify him of any issues, since all of his income is distributed by federal organizations.

McFeely also expressed his shock that the letter he received from the VA included a warning about managing financial stress.

“At the bottom of this letter, it says how to manage financial stress,” he said. “So now they want me to contact the suicide hotline, which is crazy, they’re the ones that put me in this situation.”

According to 10 Tampa Bay WTSP, the VA has acknowledged the difficulties that might be associated with the unexpected debt of McFeely and other veterans. As a result, the department is pausing the collection of debts until it determines “the path forward.” The department noted that it is “pursuing all available options to provide as much pension debt relief as possible.”