During his State of the Union address on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden announced a plan to make it easier for veterans to apply to have their medical debts forgiven as a means of helping those — especially those suffering financial hardships — who have protected our country.
The Veterans Administration has offered medical debt forgiveness programs for years, but the process has become “complex” thanks to the form that need to be filled out and eligibility requirements that the White House characterized as “complicated.” To make it easier for veterans, the VA will instead establish an income threshold; veterans making less than the threshold will be able to fill out a form — in paper or online — to apply to have their medical debts forgiven.
“Far too often military service comes with a cost, and we owe it to our veterans and their families to address the consequences comprehensively,” the White House said in a statement. “This means helping veterans build lives of opportunity when they leave military service by helping them to find employment, providing pathways to home ownership, and providing financial support and relief for those who are struggling.”
The program only applies to debts that are owed to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans will be able to apply for medical debt forgiveness under the new plan in 90 to 120 days, the White House announced.
Consumer advocates praised the announcement.
“Administrative mazes and endless paperwork stop low-income veterans from obtaining the medical debt relief they are entitled to, and the Administration is taking important steps to reduce these barriers for veterans who owe federally-held medical debts,” said Kyra Taylor, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, in a statement. “These administrative roadblocks are especially burdensome to low-income veterans, many of whom are trying to manage medical conditions that are consequences of their military service. Without the ability to discharge the debts, they become subject to the federal government’s extraordinary collection powers. America’s heroes should not have to weather wage garnishment, tax offset, and administrative offset for overdue fees charged for critical medical and mental health care at VA facilities.”