VA rule prevents veterans from attending Prescott flight school

They moved to Prescott from across the country to attend flight school, and just as they were about to begin training it ended. Dozens of veterans were notified that the VA had cut off their funding.

Now Arizona lawmakers are getting involved to help.

Many of the students left the military and moved to Prescott, specifically for the programs through Yavapai College. The Post 9/11 GI Bill was supposed to cover the cost of flight school, but thanks to the VA stepping up enforcement of a policy that has been in place for years, these vets were shut out with very little notice.

"I don't know where else to turn, I don't know who else to go to," said Patrick Needham.

Patrick Needham's life is on hold, the U.S. Air Force veteran retired to pursue a new career as a commercial pilot. He sold his home and moved to Prescott only to be turned away.

"I have made a huge sacrifice for 24 years flying combat sorties. What better person would you want flying as a commercial pilot? One who has handled the situations I have handled?" said Needham.

Needham is one of nearly 40 veterans who are stuck. They were told the flight school would be paid for by the Veterans Administration.

"The decision that was made was based on regulation; this was not with passion, or prejudice, or anything that he made his decision on. It is in the law," said VA spokesperson Suzanne Swafford.

The law allows for no more than 85% of students in a program to have VA funding. The flight schools in Prescott that operate through Yavapai College, have never had this problem in the past. But after a renewed focus on abiding by the policy, the VA found that the school exceeded the limits.

"It is horribly unfortunate; I will agree I am very, very, pro veteran. I would not have applied with a position with our agency if I weren't. I would not be working with them 21 years later. We are unfortunately bound by the regulation," said Swafford.

Lawmakers wonder why the VA would so abruptly shut out the veterans with very little warning.

"We promised them when they signed on the line to offer up to their lives to take care of us and we would take care of them, and we have to deliver on it and that is it," said State Rep. Kelli Ward.

Because it is a federal issue, state lawmakers have very little power. They promise to put pressure on Arizona's Congressional Delegation to try and help these veterans.
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