11,000 disabled student veterans left without rent, expense money due to computer glitch
By EMILY WAX-THIBODEAUX | The Washington Post | Published: February 2, 2018
Monthly stipends for 11,000 disabled student veterans are delayed this month, potentially causing the former troops to be late paying rent, food and other pressing bills.
The money from the program known as Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment subsistence allowance payments would normally have been disbursed Jan. 31. But now they will be delayed until Tuesday, due to a computer glitch, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The memo instructs operators to apologize to veterans and tell them their payments are on the way.
The program is popular because it helps disabled veterans who return home get job counseling and obtain college degrees or pursue technical skills. They are offered internships and help with contacts and resumes, which will allow them to work despite often severe injuries.
Afghanistan War Army veteran Rick Collin in Portland, Oregon, is one of the veterans who didn't receive his stipend. He said he had to put off paying bills and will now have to pay late fees. Collin is suffering from severe memory loss and post-traumatic stress disorder, along with chronic back and shoulder pain from a car accident on his way to psychiatric therapy at Fort Riley, Kansas. He has four children, ages 9, 7, 2 and 9 months.
"This was going to be my first month with money left over after bills and now that will all go to late fees," said Collin, 30. He is studying photography at Portland Community College.
He said he's currently in his fifth week of the term, has yet to receive a computer he was promised and only last week received his camera.
The troubled Department of Veterans Affairs has been under scrutiny for a range of issues, from long wait times for appointments to a surgeon leaving a scalpel in a veteran's gut.
"Any large bureaucracy has their glitches, but anytime veterans are not getting their benefits on time, especially when on a program like this, it's a real hardship," said Garry Augustine, executive director of 1.3 million-member Disabled Veterans of America.
The glitch "has been"fixed and it won't occur again the future," said Curt Cashour, press secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs in an emailed statement after receiving inquiries from The Washington Post.
"We apologize to the Veterans affected by this inconvenience," Cashour wrote.