Government Recoups $30,000 Separation Benefit from Veteran After 30 Years

Vernon Reffitt received $30,000 in 1992 to leave the Army through a special separation benefit. Now, over 30 years later, the government wants that money back. The Department of Veterans Affairs began withholding Reffitt’s monthly disability payments until he repays the $30,000, a process that would take him nearly 15 years.

Reffitt, who lives in Twin City, Georgia, called the situation unfair, saying the money shouldn’t be taken back without warning. Many veterans like him are affected by a law that prohibits receiving both disability and special separation pay. This law has led to the recoupment of separation benefits from thousands of veterans over recent years.

In Reffitt’s case, the VA mistakenly allowed him to receive both benefits for over three decades. They only caught the error when he applied for additional benefits under a new law. Similar stories have emerged from other veterans who were unaware of the law’s implications when they received their separation pay.

Daphne Young, another veteran affected, expressed shock when the VA notified her they would withhold her disability payments until she repaid her separation pay. Young, who lives in Columbus, Georgia, and is fully disabled, relied on these payments as her sole income.

Advocates argue that disability pay, meant for injuries or illnesses related to service, should not be linked to separation benefits, which are based on a service member’s career decisions. They emphasize that these are distinct forms of compensation.

Efforts to change the law have been slow, despite legislative proposals aimed at reforming the recoupment process. Veterans facing recoupment can seek waivers, but these are challenging to obtain. Organizations like the DAV assist veterans in navigating these issues, advocating for fairer treatment under the law.

For veterans like Reffitt and Young, the financial strain and uncertainty caused by the recoupment process highlight the need for reforms that better support those who have served their country.

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