Monthly government stipends for 11,000 disabled student veterans are delayed this month, potentially causing the former troops to be late paying rent and other pressing bills.
The subsistence allowance payments are made through the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. The money should have been disbursed Jan. 31 but will be delayed until Feb. 6 because of a “computer glitch,” according to an internal VA memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The memo instructs VA operators to apologize to veterans and tell them their payments are on the way.
The program is popular because it connects disabled veterans with job counseling and pays for them to earn a college degrees or learn technical skills. They are offered internships and help with contacts and résumés.
Army veteran Rick Collin, 30, of Portland, Ore., is one of the veterans who didn’t receive his stipend. As a result, he had to put off paying bills and will now have to pay late fees. Collin, who served in Afghanistan, suffers from severe memory loss and post-traumatic stress, along with chronic back and shoulder pain. He was involved in a car accident on his way to psychiatric therapy at Fort Riley in Kansas.
“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, who has four children, ages 9, 7, 2 and 9 months.. He is studying photography at Portland Community College.
He said he’s 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 VA has been under scrutiny for a range of issues, including long wait times for appointments and medical malpractice.
“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 J. Augustine, executive director of 1.3 million-member Disabled American Veterans.
The glitch “has been fixed and it won’t occur again the future,” VA spokesman Curt Cashour said in response to an inquiry from The Post.
“We apologize to the veterans affected by this inconvenience,” he added.