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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 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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MO’NIQUE SUES NETFLIX FOR DISCRIMINATION

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Mo’Nique is finally taking her accusations against Netflix for discrimination to a court of law … she’s filed a lawsuit.

In the suit, the Oscar-winning actress and comedian accuses Netflix of race-based discrimination for how it negotiated a comedy special with her. She says Netflix offered Amy Schumer $11 million for an hour-long stand-up special (she eventually got $13 mil), but only offered Mo’Nique $500,000 for her stand-up special.

Mo’Nique never accepted their offer, and went on a public campaign … which included coming on “TMZ Live” and calling for a boycott against the company.

According to the suit, she claims Netflix has a severe lack of diversity, which contributes to their discriminatory practices. Specifically, she claims one Netflix exec. — the Chief Communications Officer — used the n-word in a meeting with 60 people in 2018. Mo’Nique was not present for that meeting.

She also claims Netflix allowed Kevin Spacey to use the n-word while on the set of “House of Cards” without any consequence. In the suit, she alleges Spacey complained to his personal security guards, “I don’t want [n-words] on my set anymore.” She’s not suing Spacey.

Mo’Nique also used a major pay gap on the Netflix hit, “The Crown,” to illustrate alleged discrimination. She says the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth II was paid $14k per episode less than the actor who played Prince Philip — and it only righted the wrong after there was a public outcry about it.

She’s suing Netflix for unspecified damages, and for an injunction forcing the company to change its discriminatory policies.

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Beverly Hills Cop’ Sequel With Eddie Murphy Jumps to Netflix in Licensing Deal With Paramount

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Netflix has acquired the rights to shoot a new sequel to “Beverly Hills Cop” from Paramount, with star Eddie Murphy and producer Jerry Bruckheimer attached, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish announced Thursday.

The original 1984 action-comedy film, starring Murphy as a quick-witted, trash-talking Detroit cop who investigates his friend’s murder in Beverly Hills, was a huge hit for the studio — and spawned sequels in 1987 and 1994. The three films grossed $736 million worldwide.

Paramount had been developing “Beverly Hills Cop 4” for years — but pulled the project from its release slate in 2016.

In recent years, the studio has made deals with Netflix for completed films, selling “Cloverfield: God Particle” to the streamer for an early 2018 release and offloading overseas rights to the Natalie Portman sci-fi film “Annihilation” after a 17-day U.S. theatrical window. But it’s an unusual move for a studio to license its own IP for an unfinished film.

In recent months, Paramount parent company Viacom has shown an increasing willingness to make revenue-generating deals on its library of content rather than hoard those rights for its own internal streaming services as rivals like Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia have done.

This week, Viacom’s Nickelodeon announced a multiyear output deal for films and TV series with Netflix. And last month, the company sold the exclusive streaming rights to Comedy Central’s “South Park” to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max in a deal worth at least $500 million.

The “Beverly Hills Cop” deal also comes as Netflix has helped to revive Murphy’s career with its new release “Dolemite Is My Name,” which has generated awards season chatter. The star is also shooting the sequel to another Paramount comedy hit, 1988’s “Coming to America,” that’s due for theatrical release next year.

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The 10 top-earning actresses made almost $300 million less than their male peers this year

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For the second year in a row, Scarlett Johansson is Hollywood’s highest-paid actress, having earned $56 million between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019.

According to Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-paid actresses of 2019, most of Johannson’s earnings come from her role as Black Widow. She was the only woman in “Endgame” granted an eight-figure salary up front, as well as 5% earnings on the back end.

Johannson, along with the other nine actresses on the list, including Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon, earned a collective total of about $315 million over the past year. Though that’s a 69% increase from the previous year, Forbes reports that it’s still significantly less than the top 10 highest-paid actors, who collectively earned almost $600 million over the same time period.

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