Therapists Stop Helping Veterans After They Haven’t Been Paid in Months

The Veterans Coalition of North Central Texas received a grant from the state to pay for therapy sessions for North Texas veterans, but the payments haven't come for all therapists.

NBC 5 Responds looked into how the thousands of dollars intended for veterans' therapy was spent and what's being done to ensure the vets get the help they need.

Some of the programs the therapist use are not conventional.

Rebecca Boardman started Horses Helping Humans with therapist Sara Shuck in an effort to help veterans.

They understood vets often don't like to open up to strangers about their experiences, but horses appear to provide an outlet.

Rebecca loved working with the vets.

"To see people leave from here with a sense of calmness, having the ability to engage in work again, connect with their family again," she said.

The ranch was once seeing veterans who told us it was working.

So why haven't they been back in several months? The money to pay for it is gone.

It's not just the ranch. Therapists from across the area spoke with NBC 5 Responds about money they were due and didn't receive.

They all were contracted to provide services through the Veteran's Coalition for North Central Texas, also known as VCNCT. The nonprofit hired them and many others back in March.

VCNCT sent nearly two dozen veterans to Joe Remsik Harris for therapy.

He's still owed around $10,000 for those services.

It's money he earmarked to buy and remodel a new home.

Without the payment, he's living in what looks like a construction zone and trying to fund the repairs another way.

VCNCT gets its money through a grant from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

The state reports VCNCT received more than $223,000 in payments across six months earlier this year. The state reports more than $29,000 of that money was the state putting up money to match donations VCNCT received on their own, but only $6,844 went to pay therapists.

The state reports the rest of the money, some $188,000, went towards thousands of dollars in office furniture, a trip to Washington D.C. to make a promotional video, rent payments at 1910 Pacific Place, a shiny office tower in Downtown Dallas, and salaries for a handful of office staff and CEO Nekima Horton.

Horton says the program initially did well — too well.

She tells us so many vets wanted help, they ran out of money. Horton claims the state promised them more funding but never came through with it.

"The state is not holding up their end of the bargain, they're not telling truth of how all of this happened. Their documents were flawed," she said.

Horton claims she spent more than six grand paying the therapists, but she couldn't produce documentation to prove it.

State investigators confirm that's all they have evidence of.

Horton also claims the state assured her more money was coming to cover those who had gone unpaid.

But again, she provided nothing to prove this and the state refutes her claims.

At one point VCNCT was occupying donated office space, before moving downtown.

When asked if she feels she should have stayed in the original office instead of paying for the downtown office building, Horton said:

"I get that feeling because, again, we never paid for office space, we always partnered or had in-kind office space given to us, the only reason we got this office space and the board approved all this was because of the state."

Health and Human Services continues its investigation.

Even though there were more than $400,000 left in VCNCT's grant, the state denied Horton's request to keep receiving funds.

"Despite everything that happened, there was funding for these families, these vets," Sara Shuck said.

The ranch is quieter these days. Rebecca Boardman still looks at graffiti on the walls of the barn — messages left by the clients who got help there, the vets who right now don't have anyone to pay for them to come back.

Horton stood by her story and told us the therapists will be paid. And she says she's trying to raise those funds through private donations.

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