You May Be One of the Many Veterans Getting a Big Bill from the VA Next Month

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A man walks in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters.
A man wearing a protective mask walks in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters building in Washington, D.C., on May 28, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Stephen J. Caruso)

Veterans who typically pay the Department of Veterans Affairs for their medical care might be hit with a big bill in January after the VA halted all collections in April 2020 -- including those copays.

The copay bill letter, the VA warned in a Dec. 17 announcement, will ask the recipient to pay for all "new copay charges for medical care and prescriptions they received from April 6, 2020, through December 31, 2020." The bills could also include unpaid amounts for care received before April, it said.

In addition to the Dec. 17 release, which was shared by the VA through email, affected veterans might have received a letter in the mail this month notifying them of an upcoming bill.

That letter advised veterans of their account balance, which includes any uncollected copays from April 6 and any outstanding medical debt incurred prior to that date. It also said the VA would begin collecting that money in January, and that no interest or fees will be charged on the outstanding debt until that time.

VA officials said veterans who owe might be able to set up repayment plans or request debt relief.

"We understand this may impose a financial burden on some of our Veterans, and we're doing everything we can to help," officials said in the release.

The notice sent by mail also included instructions for viewing and paying the debt online by visiting pay.gov and entering your VA account number. But that account number was not included on the notice. Calls by Military.com to all four of the toll-free numbers listed on the letter were unsuccessful in reaching a live person to explain the debt or help locate an account number.

Lawmakers this month urged VA officials to once again defer debt collections. Administration officials, however, said they plan to move forward with repayment notices..

About VA Copays

Typically, if you have an injury or disability caused by your military service, you are eligible to be treated for that condition by the VA for free. Also, some veterans with lower income levels are exempt from having to make copays for their medical care. And if your disability or injury is severe enough for the VA to rate you at least 50% disabled for compensation benefits, all of your medical care from the department is free.

But veterans with a lower level of disability rating may have to pay the VA a copayment for care, depending on what type of medical services you get and what condition you are being treated for.

For example, if you are rated 10% disabled for high blood pressure, you can get your doctor's appointments for that condition and blood pressure medication from the VA for free. But you must pay a copay for any medicine or treatment that isn't related to your high blood pressure.

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