Air Force veteran fights for refund following TxTag upgrade overcharges

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Racheal Silverwolfe spent nine years in the U.S. Air Force. She served at Desert Storm and conducted biological nuclear testing.

“I ended up with massive liver damage,” she said. “I have problems with my lungs.”

As a result, Silverwolfe said she goes to 15 to 20 medical appointments each month. She is often using TxTag toll roads to get there.

“It’s rather frustrating,” she said. “A lot of time on the road.”

Racheal Silverwolfe is an Air Force veteran who dealt with overcharges to her TxTag account. Tolls are usually waived for eligible veterans in the state of Texas. (Photo by Tim Holcomb)
Racheal Silverwolfe is an Air Force veteran who dealt with overcharges to her TxTag account. Tolls are usually waived for eligible veterans in the state of Texas. (Photo by Tim Holcomb)

Because she has disabled veteran plates, her toll charges are usually refunded right away. The Texas Department of Transportation, which funds TxTag and its toll operations, waives toll fees for eligible veterans to support those who have served our country.

But then, TxTag began upgrading its system late last year. That included migrating a large amount of customer data.

Silverwolfe said about four weeks of charges were not waived. She spent five months speaking with TxTag customer service representatives and opening help tickets before she finally got her money back.

Silverwolfe isn’t the only driver who was overcharged in the wake of that upgrade. KXAN investigators have reported on the system changes extensively, which have so far led to drivers being refunded more than $12 million in overcharges.

Everybody needs to check their bill just to make sure this didn’t happen,” she told us.

TxDOT tells us more than six months after upgrades began, the agency continues to migrate customer data.
TxDOT told us more than six months after upgrades began, the agency continues to migrate customer data.

TxDOT told us it does not have a breakdown on how much money has been refunded specifically to veterans. The agency told us when issues like this come up, it works quickly to refund drivers. A spokesperson told us more than six months after upgrades began, TxDOT continues to migrate customer data.

In fact, TxDOT charged toll operations vendor IBM $2.6 million in contractual benchmarks not met, specifically related to “migration, cutover, and deployment to Production Environment.”

Silverwolfe said she is concerned about other veterans, many on fixed incomes, who may have been overcharged without their knowledge.

“When you get an unexpected charge, it’s like, ‘do I not buy groceries this week? Do I not pay the power bill?'” she asked.

“Being on a fixed income, you really pay attention to it.”

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