Military veterans who served our country at war are now navigating a minefield on college campuses. Some are waiting two to three times longer than normal to collect paychecks for college work-study programs.
"It's hard to deal with and it's frustrating," says Brandon Blake.
If anyone should know how to navigate the Veterans Affairs system, it's him. Blake is an Army veteran and now a student working part-time in the veterans education office at Skagit Valley College.
But there is one part of the VA he's still struggling to comprehend.
"This has been a problem," he said. "They put a Band-Aid on it but it just sat there and festered."
Blake takes part in the VA's work-study program at SVC. The program assures participants of part-time jobs to help make ends meet. But while Blake consistently shows up for work on time, his paychecks have been consistently late -- taking up to five weeks for a check that should come in less than half that time.
"It really puts you in a bind. If I'm late on a payment, there are repercussions and late fees," he says. "When they're late paying us, there's no accountability, no one is responsible."
Other veterans at Skagit Valley who didn't want their names used voiced similar concerns to KING 5 News.
Blake, a combat vet with two tours in Iraq says he speaks for them. He says overdue paychecks are putting unnecessary stress on veterans transitioning from the battlefield.
"We're struggling enough internally on our own that when we depend on somebody who says they're going to be there and they don't show up, that just sets off a whole ripple effect of other things. We've done our part. I think a little bit more help would be appropriate."
A spokesman for the VA Regional Benefits program in Muskogee, Oklahoma tells KING 5, "As of Friday, April 23rd, our office has processed 42,317 time records for Veterans and dependents participating in the work-study program, in an average of 5.4 days to process, since the beginning of fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017). Our office is reaching out to Skagit Valley College, to address any unique circumstances that may be impacting Veterans or the college."
Similar problems have surfaced in recent years involving work-study payments in other parts of the country. Media reports indicate there were staffing issues the VA was working to correct.