7 On Your Side: Disabled veterans question scholarship offer

Brad and Katrina Gagnon (Nathan Baca/ABC7)

The Veterans Administration says 46,359 families nationwide received scholarship offers that do not provide any extra financial assistance for their children.

Disabled veterans say this offer is deceiving and a misuse of the scholarship funds.

7 On Your Side examined this scholarship offer and has an alert for disabled veterans.

Retired Marine Corporal Bradley Gagnon and his daughter Katrina received a letter from the VA announcing they had been selected for the Ronald W. Koss Scholarship.

The Gagnons say they called VA employees who told them the money would be in addition to the Chapter 35 benefits Gagnon already is entitled to. They soon discovered that is not the case.

The VA was using the privately donated scholarship money to replace the money they already owed veterans.

"As the family of a disabled veteran and a low income family, every little bit helps," said Bradley Gagnon. "She wouldn't be receiving anything else, nor would they be extending her payments so we were kind of curious why they even sent the letter in the first place?"

"That would have helped with buying books. It kind of makes me feel played when they would say that it's a scholarship when after talking to them, it's not," said Katrina Gagnon.

Gagnon was not the only one. 7 On Your Side found dozens of veterans nationwide expressing their disappointment with the Koss Scholarship letter.

7 On Your Side contacted the Veterans Administration and received the following statement:

"We understand the letter has caused some confusion and misunderstanding. We have put together some additional explanation to try to more effectively answer these concerns that have come in from beneficiaries and school officials. The bottom line is that while the Koss endowment was not directly willed to the VA, the estate reached out to the VA in 2009 and the VA decided to accept the funds with the intent of distributing them to Chapter 35 beneficiaries. Regrettably, after subsequent thorough review by our Office of General Counsel, and in accordance with appropriations law, VA is not legally authorized to award any benefits in excess of the normal funds a beneficiary would receive. VA was also unable to return the funds to the estate as the estate had been closed. Under the circumstances, VA believes the funds were distributed in accordance with Mr Koss's wishes to the greatest degree possible consistent with statutory authorities.
The Ronald W. Koss Scholarship was created after Koss, a Vietnam War Veteran, died with no next of kin. A letter provided by the VA says Koss donated a "portion of his estate to the children of Veterans to enable them to go to college, a dream he never realized."

When contacted by 7 On Your Side, a House Veteran's Affairs Committee spokesperson said they have no plans to change the scholarship.

To view the scholarship letter in full, read below:

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