LORAIN, Ohio - Richard Crawford is an army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Columbia, but is now facing being homeless due to what he believes is a benefits payment mistake made by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Crawford showed News 5 a repayment notice from the VA, demanding him to payback more than $8,100 in disability overpayments made to him in the past 5 years.
It's a mistake Crawford believes was made by the VA after he was divorced, with the VA never adjusting his benefits, even though he showed News 5 paperwork proving he notified the agency multiple times he was no longer married.
The notice makes it clear all disability payments to Crawford will be stopped for the next four months, until the entire overpayment is eliminated.
Crawford said without VA benefits he'll be left homeless, forced to leave his rental home, and will have little money for food or other necessities.
"They've been messing up for five years I shouldn't of had to save that money for five years," said Crawford.
"And being homeless I wasn't going to save a dime."
Crawford moved back to his hometown of Lorain looking for a fresh start, after tough times in the state of Washington left him homeless numerous times.
Crawford has now taken his case to the Wounded Warrior Project, he's hoping the agency will help him convince the VA to set up a payment plan over the next 36 months.
Mark Coyle, Senior Benefits Liaison with the Wounded Warrior project, told News 5 VA payment issues are hurting hundreds of veterans across the country.
Coyle explained payment problems with drill pay, dependent pay, and education benefits are a growing problem, but his agency is working through the VA appeal process.
News 5 contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs about Crawford's case and we were given the following statement:
"We’re prohibited by privacy laws and regulations from commenting on Veterans’ personal information without a signed privacy waiver giving us permission to do so.
However, I appreciate the fact that you’ve given us enough information to begin to look into his case and see what can be done. I’ve forwarded your email to the Case Management Office of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
Normally the Case Management office reaches out directly to the Veteran. Can you provide a telephone number and/or email address for him to help that move along more quickly?
I want to see if we can help the Veteran and help you with your story at the same time.
Let’s see how we can help him. Perhaps we can end up making this a “good news” story once we look into the case."
Meanwhile Crawford hopes he won't be forced back out onto the streets.
"There's no justification for taking it all at once," said Crawford. "They made a mistake over five years, fix it over five years."