Lawmakers have asked the Veterans Affairs department for a detailed schedule for repaying millions of dollars in refunds to disabled veterans who were erroneously charged home loan fees.
In a June 6 report issued by the VA Inspector General, auditors stated an estimated 72,900 exempt veterans were incorrectly charged an estimated $286 million in funding fees for their VA home loans from 2012 through 2017. Veterans are exempt from paying a funding fee if they’re entitled to receive VA disability compensation. During that period, VA issued about $97 million in refunds to 19,700 of those veterans, leaving an estimated 53,200 who may still get refunds.
“While we recognize that VA has largely agreed to implement the [Inspector General’s] recommendations, it is unclear when veterans will see their reimbursement,” stated the June 24 letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of eight senators and nine representatives, including Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Committee staff members will reportedly receive a briefing on the issue on July 8.
The lawmakers also asked for information on VA’s plan to implement the necessary financial controls to prevent this from happening again in the future.
Disabled veterans were charged a funding fee for their VA home loan, when they should have been exempt.
In their earlier response to the VA IG, VA officials noted they expect to implement their plan for refunds by July 31, but it was not clear when they expect the refunds to be issued.
VA IG auditors conducted a statistical sampling of 200 loans made from 2012 through 2017, and through this sampling, estimated that nearly 73,000 disabled veterans were incorrectly charged an estimated $286 million in home loan funding fees. Their sampling found the amounts averaged $4,483, and were as high as $19,470.
“Of course, this is a large amount of money for the individual veterans,” lawmakers stated in their letter to Wilkie.
The IG report noted that although the inappropriate charges represent just 3 percent of the total amount of funding fees collected, it can be significant for individuals.
VA funding fees range from 0.5 percent to 3.3 percent of the loan amount. The fees are designed to defray the VA’s cost for administering the loan. The VA guarantees the loans, which are made through lenders such as banks and credit unions.
An earlier VA announcement directs veterans who think they may be eligible for a refund to visit the VA’s website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/purchaseco_loan_fee.asp