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Attorney General Stein to VA: Protect Veterans During This Pandemic

For Immediate Release:
Friday, April 3, 2020

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today urged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to suspend benefits claims deadlines and debt collection activities for veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to the VA, Attorney General Stein and 21 other attorneys general argue that the VA’s continued enforcement of these deadlines and collections is putting veterans in financial danger and increasing their risk of losing essential VA benefits they rely on for basic necessities, such as food and housing.

“On top of the health struggles and job losses that veterans are facing during this pandemic, they should not also have to face additional burdens that put their health and finances at greater risk,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “The VA must do the right thing and act quickly to protect our veterans by suspending claims deadlines and collection efforts.”

Almost half of all U.S. veterans are over 65 years old, and the aging population is at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering serious health consequences or dying. Additionally, the pandemic has led to skyrocketing unemployment and many veterans are losing their jobs, making it difficult for them to make debt payments.

The attorneys general argue that because the VA is closed to in-person claims assistance, veterans are forced to face significant barriers caused by the pandemic on their own. These barriers include the burden of gathering evidence to meet claims deadlines, lack of access to electronic means of claims submission, and a lack of access to veterans organizations and attorneys. Additionally, most of the country is subject to stay-at-home orders, making it nearly impossible for veterans to get the help that they need. The coalition is urging the VA to suspend all claims deadlines and issue a moratorium on collection activities for benefits overpayments and other debt.

In North Carolina, Attorney General Stein suspended all of the North Carolina Department of Justice’s state debt collection efforts. He also urged Gov. Cooper to prohibit all utility companies from suspending service to North Carolinians, an action the Governor ordered Tuesday.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the letter is available here.

More on Attorney General Stein’s work to protect North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484