Veteran students speak out after Career Center shuts down

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Dozens of veterans are out of luck after a school they were attending for a technical degree has been shut down.

The school in North Texas is called Retail Ready Career Center (RRCC) which focuses on giving veterans hands-on training and professional job placement assistance in the HVAC industry.

Two Colorado Springs veterans were enrolled in the class and both of their stories are exactly the same. The Career Center approached them about the HVAC program and just about a week ago, without much notice the school was shut down and now their futures are uncertain.

One of those vets was Steve Pattillo who says two weeks ago his future career looked totally different after signing up for a 6-week certification class at RRCC.

“They convinced everyone to quit their jobs. I had a good paying job, at the time, they promised me something better. So, I moved my family here,” said Pattillo, an Army veteran.

On September 20, students were abruptly told the school was closed for the day and to go home but class would resume the next day.

“I did feel a little bit weird I felt a little uneasy because, it’s my families life basically in that schools hand,” said Pattillo.

Then on that Friday, September 22, students say the school’s president, John Davis, made an announcement to the group saying the Department of Veterans Affairs was investigating the school.  This information  left another classmate and Colorado Springs veteran, Charles Autry, with even more questions.

“[He] Basically assured us this was nothing more than an administrative review, that the school was in no danger of closing,” said Autry, a Navy veteran.

Davis went on to say an employee had been fired for stealing $20,000 of scholarship funds and the school illegally had too many student veterans.

“Less than a week later, we were in class doing some lecture lessons.  In the middle of that, we had some school officials, come in and interrupt the class session and say ‘you had 5 minutes to get your stuff and get off the property’,” said Autry.

With no other answers, these two veterans along with more than 300 other students were sent home without their certificate or money back.

Right now both fathers want the same thing.

“I hope myself and other veterans are restored what they are owed,” said Autry.

“I’d basically like to see every body get back out on their feet and recuperate from what the school’s done to them and I’d like to prevent veterans from going through this again,” said Pattillo.

Autry is reaching out to Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office to see if they could help. They said the following in response:

“Congressman Lamborn’s office routinely helps veterans in our community. We have heard from one veteran about this school and are currently awaiting paperwork that will allow us to advocate on his behalf.”

The school was thought to be violating the 85/15 rule, meaning that only 85 percent of the student body can use their GI bill to pay for tuition; the other 15 percent had to be non-service members or fund the program themselves. Davis said it turns out 98 percent of the people enrolled were former service members.

Pattillo and Autry did use $21,000 and 9 months of their VA benefits. They’re concerned what will happen next.

“Basically what the VA has told us, or told me, is that it’s up in the air if we’ll have our benefits restored, fully or partially restored, as it stand right now we are out 9 months of our benefits,” Autry said.

“They said that’s a big maybe and they are not 100 percent sure, so it’s basically a big waiting game for all the veterans involved if we get anything back or not,” Pattillo said.

FOX21 attempted to reach out to the Career Center, but no one answered the phone or returned the voicemail. The veterans said most of their classmates are also joining in on a class action lawsuit.

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