Congressman Sends Letter About Late Mobility Dealer Payments to VBA

A member of Congress has sent a letter to the Veterans Business Administration (VBA) to inquire about chronically late payments to mobility dealers who provide accessible vehicles to veterans with disabilities.

In a letter dated Sept. 20, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) expressed his concerns to Paul R. Lawrence, Under Secretary for Benefits at the VBA in Washington, D.C.

The detailed letter included a spreadsheet of some of the past-due invoices.

“I am concerned,” Gallego wrote, “about delayed reimbursement from the VBA to vendors that perform VA-authorized sales, installations, repairs and maintenance of automobiles and automobile adaptive equipment for disabled veterans. These automobiles and equipment are integral to the health and well-being of veterans, and the VA has an obligation to ensure that the third-party vendors that provide these products and services are promptly paid.”

Gallego added that while mobility dealers “provide these products and services and submit pre-authorized and complete invoices, VBA does not have a history of reimbursing dealers in a timely manner, if at all.” Gallego referred to a June 2015 Veterans Affairs’ sub-committee meeting at which the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) testified that the VA racked up nearly 4,000 late invoices valued at more than $34 million. At that time, the average invoice was 271 days past due, and 16 percent of invoices more than one year past due.

“It seems that little has changed,” Gallego said in his letter, “and dealers across the country are still waiting on payment of additional invoices documenting millions of dollars that are months or years past due.”

Gallego said the hardship caused by these late invoices is making it more difficult for mobility dealers to continue to serve disabled veterans.

“Further, the law is clear,” Gallego said. “The Prompt Payment Act requires federal agencies to pay a vendor’s valid and proper invoice on time and typically within 30 days, otherwise the payment is late.”

Gallego asked Lawrence to respond to the Congressman’s office with information on the current backlog of dealer invoices and their value; why the backlog is ongoing; and what the VBA is doing to address the backlog.

NMEDA shared details of the letter in its Sept. 26 newsletter to stakeholders. “NMEDA and Congress are currently exploring various approaches to accelerate VA’s VMSA rulemaking and improve the agency’s payment practices,” the organization said. “Thank you to the dealers that submitted past-due invoices data. We will update membership as these initiatives progress.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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