Mailroom: Portland RO Is Screwing Student Veterans, Are You Next?

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130305 Mailroom Veterans Emails

I received this alarming note from a veteran today about how VR&E. The Portland RO has stopped paying veterans’ tuition at Portland State University for some undisclosed reason.

Now, PSU will force veterans to pay up if VA does not pay the money owed.

Thanks Uncle Sam – yet another example of how America does not keep her promises to her veterans.

I am investigating this one further, but I wanted to pass on the news, in case other Regional Offices are screwing veterans and their colleges.

I used to live in Portland and have talked with the Voc Rehab people out there in the past, so this issue is particularly close to home for me. In fact, I helped CBS Evening News investigate some issues at the Portland RO back in 2010…

Here’s the drill: I include this for all newcomers. Each week, I take an email from a veteran that would have broad appeal to many veterans. They are usually about the GI Bill, VA Voc Rehab, or Disability Compensation.

I then analyze the veterans benefits issue for a bit and post my input here in our weekly segment: Mailroom. Basically, I take out all of the veteran’s identifying information from the best email and post it here with my answer.

If you have a burning question about your veterans benefits, sent me an email by selecting the contact tab at the top of this page. If I think your situation will be helpful for other veterans, I will repost it here.

* If you do not want me to write about your veterans benefits situation, please feel free to let me know within the email. I have no problem keeping a lid on the situation, too.

________

Email from Veteran :

Benjamin, I received this email on Friday from Portland State University (PDX). I’m hoping this gets taken care of after I raise a storm with my case manager and DAV rep.

“Very important for Chapter 31 (Voc Rehab) Students:

The VA is grossly overdue in paying ALL Chapter 31 student tuition and fees! If the fees due are not brought up to date by August 31st, 2013, we will NO LONGER BE ABLE TO CERTIFY Voc Rehab students! What can you do about this? Call and complain to your case manager or the VA themselves, anything to make your voices heard. You want your school to be paid for, right? We do, too! Help us help YOU! If you have questions about this, please contact your case manager!”

 

Email from Benjamin Krause (me):

Let me help on this after finals. I suspect VR&E is doing this throughout the country.

Do me a favor first. Go to the Finance office of PDX and ask to speak with them about the payment issue. While there, also ask them if they know the total due from VR&E that has not been paid for all students.

___________

This is not the end of this story but more of a call out. If you are a VA Vocational Rehabilitation veteran who has had a tough time getting VA to pay tuition, let me know.

Send an email by clicking Contact on the top right menu.

My hunch is that funding cutbacks have impacted the VR&E budget. Many of these counselors believe they are the “last line of defense” between taxpayer dollars and your benefits. They have literally emailed me and stated as much.

For that reason, some counselors take personal ownership over your case and act like they are paying out of their own piggy bank when you request benefits.

I find this kind of mentality laughable for one reason. It always seems like people like this hold back the purse strings whenever some poor veteran needs help. But, when it comes to paying government contractors billions in taxpayer dollars for broken software systems, VA cannot seem to pay out the money fast enough.

 

UPDATE:

Ten hours after posting this, Portland State University sent out an email apologizing for sending the above email to veterans at PSU. I then received an email from Margarita Devlin.

Ben,

I am sorry I missed you when you were in town recently.  I wanted to touch base with you on the below article:

https://www.disabledveterans.org/2013/05/07/mailroom-is-portland-ro-screwing-student-veterans-out-of-tuition/

I thought you would want to know that the school sent out the below email to all PSU students yesterday.

I hope you are doing well.

Margarita Devlin

Acting Director, VR&E Service

202-461-9600

[email protected]

VetSuccess.gov

——– Original Message ——–

Subject:        Updated Information for Chapter 31 Students

Date:   Tue, 7 May 2013 10:02:52 -0700

From:   PSU Veteran Affairs <[email protected]>

To:     Jenny Koivisto <[email protected]>

Please disregard the recent email related to overdue payments from the VA for Chapter 31 benefits.

As a result of staff misunderstanding the email was sent in error, and includes misguided information and advice.

PSU is working with the VA to resolve any outstanding payment issues, and it is not necessary for you to contact your VA case manager. Your ability to be certified for Voc Rehab benefits is NOT in jeopardy.

We are sorry for the overly alarming message and confusion or worry it has caused.

If you have any questions please contact Angie Garbarino at [email protected] or 503-725-8145.

Portland State University

PO Box 751 / Portland OR 97207

503.725.3000

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not surprised. Linfield College hadn’t received payment for almost a year causing serious problems with class registration, book ordering. Apparently it’s “always been that way. It appears to be one person handling the paperwork from what I gathered and hopefully will soon be leaving or retiring. It’s absolutely ridiculous for anyone in particular the colleges and Portland to allow this to go on. Once again I guess the colleges think the government will come through sometime however I can appreciate PSU saying enough. A real bummer since I’m considering my Masters with them. RIDICULOUS again!!!

  2. Jumping to conclusions won’t get anyone, anywhere. I think the VA has done a wonderful job being transparent about how wonderfully modernization has moved the Post 911 GI Bill Program forward and that veteran student non profits such as the SVA has gradually been commendable for the most wax like mortuary surface level of work they have completed on behalf of student veterans; be it as it may, tax payers should be grateful the VA [http://va.gov] has been transparently honest with noting the VR&E program [http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/] is modeled after an ancient/outdated shoddy social program monikered as vocational rehabilitation and employment with cordial broken promises that VR&E produces an extremely high rate versus a low success rate of what the VA would like to refer as “rehabilitated”.

    The VA has never denied it has failed veterans in the VR&E program, when you run a program state by state with the attitude which comes from a VR&E self titled “counselor” and rather than handling benefits in apodictic fashion in accord to traditional and modern values of social contract and theory, the counselor performs their job similar to this scenario: A man on a street has a house and one lawn mower, fifty kids ask if they can earn a buck mowing the yard, the man says if the kids take turns mowing they will all have a benefit when the job is done. The kids finish the yard and the man puts the mower in the shed — goes inside his house and locks the door. The kids suspect the man is never coming out of his house — yet they return day after day but in shorter numbers. Until finally the kids move on because they know the man with the mower bullshitted the kids before them and he will bullshit the kids who haven’t arrived yet.

    If a veteran wants to fail the program he/she should be charged. But counselors aren’t even sending prospective candidates to go to university independently.

    If the USDA doesn’t hire newly graduated “pediatric special education counselors” from tenth rate colleges to oversee farmers benefits concerning agricultural democracy and rights, the VA doesn’t need to employ the same crackpots either, concerning veterans.

    Don’t get me wrong, for a person who wants to work with young children and who can understand sign language written on a forearm or a communication pad for a blind/deaf/dumb child — not to mention the agony of diaper changing … the work is brave and commendable, but that isn’t the type of person needed to oversee the benefits of a man or woman seeking an education.

    The only time the VA VR&E has consistently contacted me was by way of a contractor who wanted to put me on the VA website for VR&E in the attempt which was for a lousy $25 gift card; I would appear on their website as a down trodden bum who had their life turned around by way of going to Georgetown University. I went to University of Oxford too, as did my daughter for the same year and we both paid “out of pocket.

    The VR&E doesn’t turn anything around, just upside down and then only by vehicle of “Camera Obscura” which they can only see the achievement of their own — brilliantly insulated — failure.

    I refused to be the poster boy of bum veteran turned Hoya/Oxonian. They spent millions in PR for that stunt and could only come up with a 25 dollar gift card. When the contractor wouldn’t stop calling me — I told her VR&E is a Veteran’s worst nightmare and a complete poverty trap — if I was to be a poster boy/ PR honky tonk stuntman — I would have to put that as my quote for VR&E’s PR vanguard. She stopped calling.

    From Georgetown alumnus: William Peter Blatty’s movie “The Ninth Configuration”, in seriocomic fashion the movie would depict the “bikers” as the “leadership” of the movie’s [and reality] VR&E program as well as the congratulatory role of the [unemployed ARC] counselors.

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