(a) This section is written in accordance with 31 CFR 901.2 and applies to the demand for payment of all debts, except those debts arising out of participation in a VA benefit or home loan program. Procedures for the demand for payment of VA benefit or home loan program debts are set forth in § 1.911.
(b) Written demand as described in paragraph (c) of this section shall be made promptly upon a debtor of VA in terms that inform the debtor of the consequences of failing to cooperate with VA to resolve the debt. Generally, one demand letter is sufficient, but subsequent letters may be issued. In determining the timing of the demand letter, VA should give due regard to the need to refer debts promptly to the Department of Justice for litigation, in accordance with §§ 1.950 through 1.953. When necessary to protect VA's interest (for example, to prevent the running of a statute of limitations), written demand may be preceded by other appropriate actions under 38 CFR 1.900 through 1.953, including immediate referral for litigation.
(c) The written demand letter shall inform the debtor of:
(1) The basis for the indebtedness and any rights the debtor may have to seek review within VA, including the right to request waiver;
(2) The applicable standards for imposing any interest or other late payment charges;
(3) The date by which payment should be made to avoid interest and other late payment charges and enforced collection, which generally should not be more than 30 days from the date that the demand letter is mailed;
(4) The name, address, and phone number of a contact person or office within the agency;
(5) The opportunity to inspect and copy VA records related to the debt; and
(6) The opportunity to make a written agreement to repay the debt.
(d) In addition to the items listed in paragraph (c) of this section, VA should include in the demand letter VA's willingness to discuss alternative methods of payment and its policies with respect to the use of credit bureaus, debt collection centers, and collection agencies. The letter should also indicate the agency's remedies to enforce payment of the debt (including assessment of interest, administrative costs and penalties, administrative garnishment, Federal salary offset, tax refund offset, administrative offset, and litigation) and the requirement that any debt delinquent for more than 180 days be transferred to Treasury for collection.
(e) VA should respond promptly to communications from debtors and should advise debtors who dispute debts, or request waiver, to furnish available evidence to support their contentions.
(f) Prior to referring a debt for litigation, VA should advise each debtor determined to be liable for the debt that, unless the debt can be collected administratively, litigation may be initiated. This notification may be given as part of a demand letter under paragraph (c) of this section or in a separate letter.
(g) When VA learns that a bankruptcy petition has been filed with respect to a debtor, before proceeding with further collection action, VA should immediately seek legal advice from either VA's General Counsel or Regional Counsel concerning the impact of the Bankruptcy Code on any pending or contemplated collection activities. Unless VA determines that the automatic stay imposed at the time of filing pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 362 has been lifted or is no longer in effect, in most cases collection activity against the debtor should stop immediately.
(1) After VA seeks legal advice, a proof of claim should be filed in most cases with the bankruptcy court or the Trustee. VA should refer to the provisions of 11 U.S.C. 106 relating to the consequences on sovereign immunity of filing a proof of claim.
(2) If VA is a secured creditor, it may seek relief from the automatic stay regarding its security, subject to the provisions and requirements of 11 U.S.C. 362.
(3) Offset is prohibited in most cases by the automatic stay. However, VA should seek legal advice from VA's General Counsel or Regional Counsel to determine whether payments to the debtor and payments of other agencies available for offset may be frozen by VA until relief from the automatic stay can be obtained from the bankruptcy court. VA also should seek legal advice from VA's General Counsel or Regional Counsel to determine whether recoupment is available.