Disabled Veterans May Get Refund

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Inspector General recently issued a report claiming that more than 53,000 disabled veterans may be owed refunds totaling approximately $189 million in home loan fees they were incorrectly charged by the VA. Auditors found it "troubling" that senior Veterans Benefits Administration officials were aware in October, 2014 that thousands of exempt veterans were owed refunds, but didn't take adequate action to issue refunds. The auditors estimated that nearly 73,000 exempt veterans were incorrectly charged an estimated $286 million in funding fees for their VA home loans from 2012 through 2017. During that period, the VA issued about $97 million in refunds to 19,700 of the veterans -- leaving an estimated 53,200 who may be eligible for refunds. Based on a sample of 200 home loans made from 2012-2017, auditors found overcharges that averaged $4,483.

Generally, veterans and service members are required to pay a VA funding fee when they apply for a VA home loan, to defray the VA's cost for administering the loan. However, veterans are exempt from paying a funding fee if they're entitled to receive VA disability compensation. VA funding fees range from 0.5 percent to 3.3 percent of the loan amount. The VA guarantees the loans, which are made through lenders such as banks and credit unions.

The VA Loan Guaranty Service has developed a plan to identify these exempt veterans and to issue the refunds. One issue identified by the Inspector General, and being reviewed by the VA, is how to credit borrowers who, after their loan has closed, were awarded disability compensation with retroactive effective dates, which would have made them eligible for the waiver at the time the loan was given.

In their response to the VA IG, Loan Guaranty Service officials cited other competing priorities: unprecedented growth in the VA home loan program from 2012 through 2017, with parallel increases in phone call volume, requests for VA certificates of eligibility, and appraisals. In 2014, the VA estimated it would take 12 employees devoted full time for one year to complete the refunds. More recent data indicates it would take at least 30 full-time employees more than a year to complete the process, according to the VA.

Veterans who think they may be eligible for a refund should go online or call (877) 827-3702 to request a refund.

SCDMV Veteran Designation

SCDMV offers a “VETERAN” designation on driver licenses, identification cards and beginner permits for individuals who served honorably in the United States Armed Forces. To apply, veterans must present an acceptable document based on the SC Code of Laws 56-1-140 and the standards set by the South Carolina State Office of Veterans' Affairs.

If your military discharge date was AFTER January 1, 1950, you must provide Form DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty), which indicates an honorable discharge. No other proof of service will be accepted.

If your military discharge date was BEFORE 1950, you must provide a “Certificate of Discharge” or “Enlisted Separation Paper. Veterans discharged before 1950 will not have a Military Form DD-214 because that form did not exist until January 1, 1950.

Military dependents, spouses or civilian employees on military bases are not eligible.

The cost to add the VETERAN designation to a driver license, identification card or beginner permit is $1.00. If you add the designation without changing or renewing your license, you will pay only the $1.00 fee. However, if you conduct another license transaction, you will pay $1.00 plus the required transaction fee. Each time you change or renew your credential, you must pay an additional $1.00 fee to add the designation.

Because state law requires documentation of military service, veterans applying for the designation must visit a DMV office. To get the best service in the shortest amount of time, DMV recommends that customers visit offices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Customers should also remember that the days before and after a holiday are extremely busy at DMV.

Free Entrance to National Parks for Vets and Gold Star Families

The National Park Service is now giving free admission to all honorably discharge veterans and Gold Star Families. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced a Secretarial Order on October 28, 2020, granting Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other sites managed by the Department of the Interior commencing on Veterans Day. Lands and waters managed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also participating in the program. The entrance fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits or special tours. For purposes of this program, a veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification when entering a national park:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)

  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

  • Veteran ID Card • Veterans designation on a state issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card