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VA may owe veterans millions in refunds on home loans fees

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More than 50,000 disabled veterans could be owed as much as $190 million in refunds from the Department of Veterans Affairs for home loan fees they were wrongly charged or no longer owe, an investigation has found.

Senior leaders knew about the problem for years but didn’t ensure veterans received what they are due, the investigation by the VA inspector general found. 

Veterans pay the fees when they buy homes with the help of VA’s Home Loan Guaranty Program, but they are supposed to be exempt if they are disabled. Fees can total up to 3.3% of a home’s value. 

But the VA didn’t do that in thousands of cases dating back more than a decade because the veterans didn’t ask for the refunds.

VA loan managers, who knew about outstanding debts to veterans since at least 2014, told investigators that they had been focused on other priorities, including processing high volumes of applications.

Investigators from the inspector general’s office said in their report released Thursday that they found it “troubling” that the managers were “aware that thousands of veterans were potentially owed more than $150 million yet did not take adequate actions to ensure refunds were issued.”

“It is the review team’s opinion that requiring a veteran to submit a claim for a refund improperly places the burden and responsibility solely upon the veteran,” investigators said.

The VA issued a press release last month – as the inspector general was preparing to release the investigation results – announcing that the agency is now notifying veterans when they buy homes under the program that they are exempt from the fees if they are disabled or later determined to be disabled.

“Through an internal quality improvement effort, VA has put a plan in place to better inform veterans through key communications when the law allows VA to waive the fee for a veteran,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the release.

The release did not say what is being done to ensure veterans due refunds from loans in prior years are paid. The inspector general found the amounts owed in its review ranged from $5,000 to $20,000.

The VA said veterans who believe they are owed a refund should consult the agency’s website for more information about VA home loan funding fees.

Between 2012 and 2017, the VA collected roughly $10 billion in fees from veterans under the loan program.

The inspector general estimated disabled veterans who were wrongly charged accounted for $286 million of those fees. But the VA only refunded about $100 million, leaving an estimated $190 million that may still be due to 53,200 veterans.   

The Loan Guaranty program was established in 1944 to help veterans finance home purchases. Loans are provided by private lenders, but the VA guarantees a portion of the loans for eligible buyers. The lenders collect the fees and transmit them to the VA.

If a veteran wrongly paid the fees, the VA can refund the money directly to the veteran. If the fees were included as part of a loan, the VA pays the lender, which applies it to the loan balance.

In 2014, regional VA loan officials in St. Paul, Minnesota, notified senior VA managers that an analysis found nearly $150 million may be due in refunds to disabled veterans for fees on 48,000 loans issued between 2006 and 2014.

“As of January 2019, the review team received no indication that a large-scale effort had been initiated to issue refunds to these veterans,” the inspector general said.   

The director of the Loan Guaranty program since 2017, Jeffrey London, told investigators he “considered contracting out the task of issuing refunds, but never requested the award of a contract because other priorities…took precedence,” the investigators wrote.

The inspector general recommended the agency identify and pay all the veterans owed refunds. In addition, the VA should implement procedures to minimize the number of veterans who are wrongly charged fees and conduct periodic reviews to ensure those who are receive prompt refunds.

The VA told investigators some of the fees were incorrectly assessed by lenders, not the VA. But agency officials said in their response to the report that they “generally agreed” with the investigation’s findings and are consulting lawyers about complexities related to issuing refunds.

The agency “has drafted a plan with contingencies ready for implementation depending on the (legal) opinion,” the VA response said. The agency did not elaborate on what the plan is or when refunds will be issued.  

 

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1 Comment

  1. Backstreetsofhickory.Com

    June 13, 2019 at 2:18 am

    Very good post. I’m going through a few of these issues as well..

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DEMI LOVATO TO SING NATIONAL ANTHEM AT SUPER BOWL LIV

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Multi-platinum singer, songwriter, DEMI LOVATO will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LIV pregame festivities at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Sunday, February 2, the NFL and FOX announced today. 

The pregame show, including the National Anthem, will be broadcast live worldwide.

Lovato is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, actress, advocate, philanthropist, and business woman. Within hours of the release of Lovato’s fifth studio album, CONFIDENT, the first single, “Cool for the Summer” trended worldwide and hit #1 on iTunes in 37 countries.

Lovato will join a prestigious line up of Super Bowl National Anthem performers, including: Gladys Knight, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Luke Bryan, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Joel, P!NK, Jordin Sparks, Idina Menzel, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Neil Diamond.

In addition, on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), CHRISTINE SUN KIM, internationally renowned sound artist and performer, will sign the National Anthem in American Sign Language.

The NFL previously announced that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will headline the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show.

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Tyler Perry Will Make His Netflix Debut With ‘A Fall From Grace’

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Now that Tyler Perry has ended the Madea franchise, and has his very own state-of-the-art production facility in Atlanta, GA, Perry is trying his hand at another thriller movie with his upcoming Netflix film, A Fall From Grace,

Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Mehcad Brooks, Cicely Tyson (Academy Award® Nominee) and Perry round out the cast. Perry also writes and directs A Fall from Grace, and it was the first to be completely filmed at his Atlanta studio.

The film follows a newly divorced woman named Grace Waters (Fox) who falls in love with a young man named Shannon (Brooks). But when secrets erode her short-lived joy, Grace’s vulnerable side turns violent

After being arrested for killing her new husband and awaiting for her upcoming trial, her lawyer (Webb) digs deep to find out the truth behind her husband’s alleged death and find a way to try to prove her innocence. “When you wake up, you don’t know that today will be the day to change your life,” says a disheveled and hand-cuffed Grace in the new montage of scenes.

A Fall from Grace arrives on Netflix on January 17th; add it to your watch-list here and check out the official trailer above.

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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, returns to Canada after bombshell announcement

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The Duchess of Sussex has returned to Canada after she and Prince Harry announced they were “stepping back” as senior members of Britain’s royal family.

Prince Harry remains in the UK and Meghan is expected to come back to London on Tuesday, when the couple are set to attend an event with Janice Charette, High Commissioner of Canada to the UK, at Canada House.

Meghan and Harry wanted to meet with Charette “as well as staff to thank them for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in Canada,” according to a statement from Buckingham Palace.

The couple recently returned from Canada, where they spent the Christmas holidays with the duchess’ mother, Doria Ragland.

“The Duke and Duchess have a strong connection to Canada. It’s a country The Duke of Sussex has visited many times over the years and it was also home to The Duchess for seven years before she became a member of The Royal Family,” the royals said on their Instagram page, Sussex Royal, on Wednesday.

The latest developments follow the shock announcement that the pair plan to “transition into a new working model” and become “financially independent” after stepping back from their roles as senior members of the British royal family.

There was said to be a mood of deep disappointment in the palace following the announcement, and senior members of the family are hurt as a result of the news.

Meghan and Harry’s desire to become “financially independent” has also sparked questions as to how they will be able to do this.

The pair published detailed documents outlining the structure and funding of their household, which revealed they receive 5% of their income from the Sovereign Grant — a lump sum of UK taxpayers’ money given to the Queen every year — and 95% from the Duchy of Cornwall, the private estate controlled by Prince Charles, Harry’s father.

Media reports have suggested that Meghan was independently worth around $5 million before she married Harry, who inherited millions from his mother Princess Diana.

However UK newspaper The Times reports that Charles may withdraw funding from the couple if they completely withdraw from their royal duties.

Observers say the couple are unlikely to struggle for money and could generate income from a UK trademark for their brand ‘Sussex Royal,” which the couple applied for in June, as well as sponsorship or speaking tours.

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