Central Oregon Community College, Oregon State University-Cascades and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs all say they are committed to serving veterans. But student veterans in Central Oregon have been denied or delayed in getting benefits they were owed.
Thanks, in part, to the work of Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, and his staff the problems are apparently being corrected — going forward. But there are still serious questions about how long the problems have been going on and if former students will get any back benefits owed.
Student veterans at OSU-Cascades were receiving about $200 a month less than what they should have been when they were taking classes. Earlier this year, a student veteran at Central Oregon Community College was paid late more than $1,000 for housing and tuition. It’s not clear how many students were not getting benefits. Walden’s office has identified about a half a dozen so far.
Jessica Hofherr, a student in kinesiology at OSU-Cascades and former Air Force Arabic linguist, said $200 a month makes a difference. Naomi Way, a student at COCC and a married Army veteran with three kids, told us the late payment of more than $1,000 caused her family to miss a rent bill.
A problem at OSU-Cascades was apparently due to the incorrect ZIP code being used for the campus for what’s called the basic allowance for housing. The ZIP for the OSU main campus in Corvallis was being used, instead. The cost of living is a bit lower there than in Bend, accounting for the $200-a-month difference. OSU-Cascades had 89 students who are veterans or current service members in winter term.
A problem at COCC was due to a technical, nationwide glitch at the VA. It included housing allowances, tuition payments and book stipends that were not being paid or delayed. COCC coordinates benefits for about 350 veterans and their dependents a year, according to the school.
Walden told us Saturday he will fight to get any student veterans their back benefits. The country owes them that.