VA suspended copays, debt for some vets during pandemic. Those bills are due in January.

Group of doctors in a hurry down the hospital hallway
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Editor's note: Since this story published on Oct. 9, 2020, President Joe Biden extended the pause on veteran debt collection during the coronavirus pandemic in an executive order on Jan. 22, 2021.

Previous story: The Department of Veterans Affairs suspended copays and debt for some veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. But those copays weren't waived -- they were only deferred until early next year.

That means veterans will likely receive a bill from VA in January, if they haven't already, which will outline the unpaid copays for medical care or prescriptions that will then be due in full. 

Starting on April 6, VA stopped requiring veterans who normally would pay copays for appointments or prescriptions to pay for their part of that care. But VA didn't stop charging the veterans, merely pausing collection of those payments or debts until a later date. Congress still requires they collect those debts, and it would likely take an effort from lawmakers to extend any debt relief further.

In emails to veterans this week, VA announced it would begin billing veterans in January 2021 for those deferred copays. 

"The recovery of these copayments in January 2021 may cause a financial burden for our veterans," the emails read. 

Veterans don't have to make those payments until January, but they can make them now if they want. 

In January, veterans should receive a patient statement that includes new copay charges for any care or prescriptions fro April 6, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, and any unpaid copays from before April 2020. 

Veterans who can't make the payments when billing starts again are asked to call VA at 866-400-1238 or 844-698-2311 (TTY: 711). Department officials said they can work with veterans to determine debt relief options. 

As of April 3, VA also suspended collecting newly established veteran debt and make it easier for vets to request extended repayment plans. 

The president in April ordered VA to postpone all debt collection from veterans during the pandemic. 

Those with questions about debt related to VA benefits are asked to contact the VA Debt Management Center at 800-827-0648 and those with debt related to VA health care can contact the Health Resource Center at 866-400-1238. 

A 94-year-old veteran told VA his wife died. 7 years later, VA came to collect a debt.

Trump orders VA to postpone debt collection from veterans during coronavirus pandemic

Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.
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