Senior Airman, Brian Kolfage Jr., the most severely wounded Airman in US history---a triple amputee---was informed recently by the Veterans Administration Debt Management Center that he would be back charged $4825.00. According to the VA, they had been overpaying Airman Kolfage for several years and they want their money back.
On September 11, 2004, while serving his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brian Kolfage lost both his legs and an arm when a 107 mm rocket exploded three feet from the Airman, throwing him into a wall of sandbags. Brian miraculously survived the blast and after eleven months at Walter Reed Medical Center, he returned to serve in the Air Force at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. Kolfage is no longer on active duty and receives monthly VA benefits compensation for the wounds he received serving our country.
A few months back, Kolfage---who once served on former Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford's Veterans Advisory Committee and is an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration---received notification dated September 12, 2013 that his file had been pulled and investigated by the VA. After an Arizona background check, the VA claimed that Brian was overpaid, each month, for several years. According to the VA, Brian's indebtedness---for this alleged overpayment of $4825.00--would require monthly payments of $105 to be taken out of his benefits account until the debt was satisfied.
The VA justification for the back charge stemmed from Arizona court records---the VA claimed---showing Brian was not married and not entitled to the full amount of benefits he had been receiving.
Since Brian was in fact remarried, he provided the necessary legal documentation to the VA and was told that an error had been made and the problem would be cleared up and no indebtedness existed. Moreover, the Veterans Administration said there would be no back charge against his benefits. To quote Brian: "They even sent me a document last month [September] saying everything was reviewed, updated and good to go."
On October 29, 2013, Kolfage received a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Debt Management Center, and Operations Division Chief explaining that his indebtedness balance had been reduced by a $105.00 through a reduction of his monthly benefits.
After several frustrating attempts to contact the VA through the 1-800 number provided in the VA Debt Management Center correspondence, Brian has yet to hear back from anyone about the ongoing reductions in his monthly benefits. After losing an arm and two legs in service to his country, it appears that his government may require Brian to offer his remaining arm to resolve their error.
In my conversations with Brian, one thing is abundantly clear. This man is an unselfish Patriot. Kolfage is not as angry as he is frustrated. His first concerns are for his fellow veterans struggling with an unproductive Veterans Administration, VA backlogs and a system that adds unnecessary stress to the lives of men---he served with---who already struggle with monstrous stresses related to recovery and re-assimilation back into life after combat. They should not have to fight their government for the help the need and are owed.