Everything that I’m going to report on here is 100% truth, I’m doing my best to not editorialize but instead provide you with facts, without hyperbole.
We had a very successful business with a friend that eventually turned sour in the late 90’s / early 2000’s and we came out of the selling of the company with a sizable tax debt. Since we already had student loans, we entered a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, this was the only way that we could shore up the taxes and student loans at the same time. With that in mind we paid everything off over the course of 53 months, every payment made, on time, all the way to discharge.
The slate is clean! Our credit was excellent, very thankful. This is very important as you will see later on.
To say that the last 5 years have been devastating would be putting it very mildly!
My wages were cut 25% so I moved on to another company where my salary doubled, however after 8 months the company decided to go another route and I got layed-off, it took me 6 months for find another job. The company ended up going with another computer language and decided to get someone more skilled than myself in that language, which I totally understand.
Fast forward another 8 months and I had a heart attack, stents in place it’s all good!
As you may imagine, this was crippling financially and we ended up missing a payment on our mortgage but managed to get an agreement with CitiMortgage and our repayment plan was working out well, problem solved, we didn’t have much to live on but we could make it.
My wife and I are both Desert Storm vets with honorable discharges and you would think that there are options available for us, but since we had a VA Loan, none of the great refi options / help that you see on TV are available to folks with VA loans, stunning but true.
I apologize for my long-windedness however it’s necessary to understand the context of the situation.
Stage Set, Freaking 2015
Starting in January of 2015 I had been receiving letters from a company that were very poorly written, in fact they looked like they were written by a traditional scammer with a typewriter.
The letters were claiming that I owed the company around $17,000 in student loans in 2001, and they were allegedly ‘collecting’ the debt, the one that I payed off through The Department of Justice via chapter 13 bankruptcy mentioned above. So with that in mind I threw out the letters and chalked it up to Nigerian scammers or something, I had paid those debts through the US Government, every penny.
Furthermore I had not taken any college classes in 2001, this was definitely a scam, so I thought.
My Poor Beautiful Wife
My wife was rear-ended by an uninsured lady on an Alaskan freeway. Traffic had come to a full stop and the gal was jerking around, trying to find something on the floorboard of her car and plowed into our mini-van going 55MPH.
The force of the accident drove our mini-van underneath the full sized van in front of her, and forced THAT van into another car, and another car, and another, totaling 5 cars in ‘the accident’. This caused her to end up with chronic back pain due to 3 herniated disks.
Freaking March 2015
Sadly, my wife’s pain was getting worse and there wasn’t much that could be done about it, she had fusion surgery the summer before, and while that turned out well, she still had 2 other herniated disks.
This was literally the toughest time in my life, I would wake on a Saturday (or any day) and look over to my bride and she would have tears streaming down her cheeks due to the immense pain. The doctors upped her medication to a point where she could live with it (sort of), but it was causing problems at work due to the effects of her medication.
Eventually it came to the point where she could not work. She fell asleep at a traffic light and when she got home I had to make the decision to tell her to quit her job, it was simply not an option any more.
I figured out our budget and if we pinched EVERY penny we could still make it, barely. She ended up tearfully quitting her job on March 15th, she loved her work and the people that she worked with.
Enter the US Government
On the VERY SAME DAY that my wife had to quit her job, I got an email from my employer explaining that my wages were going to be garnished due to my ‘unpaid’ student loans (the ones that I paid via the Department of Justice).
Every argument went unanswered, and my pay was reduced by 10%, additionally that week I discovered that the IRS had seized my $3,500 tax return that we were expecting any day now.
Wife’s income gone, tax return gone, 10% of my income gone on top of the 25% that I lost with my wage cut.
You don’t have to be a CPA to see that we had literally no money at all, ZERO. Paying our electric bill, my current student loans (I got my degree in 2008), and trying to feed our 4 kids was nearly impossible and I ‘made too much money’ (less than $45k per year) for Food Stamps.
Lawyers Don’t Represent Poor People
I totally understand this, no one wants to work for free! Thankfully, the lawyers who were compassionate enough to listen were telling me to go to court, a judge would hear our case and get rid of the garnishment.
With this in mind I headed down to the local courthouse and they would not schedule a hearing without a case number. Case number? I didn’t have a case number, there was no court date set to discuss the garnishment, they just did it.
This is the day that I found out that there was absolutely nothing that I could do since student loans are a ‘Federal’ issue. The chances of some random guy (me) getting on a Federal docket are less than zero.
The US Government doesn’t need to go through a court to garnish your wages, it just happens and you have no recourse. No Judge, no telling your side of the story, nothing.
Thankfully, we found an attorney that would hear our story and he went to bat for us with $600 that I had to take from my 401K (that would take more from our monthly income when paid back).
THANK GOD, he got the garnishment removed!!! Well not so fast…
Here’s Where the Fun Begins
When they unlawfully garnished my wages I couldn’t make my house payment which violated the agreement that I had previously made with CitiMortgage, so we lost our house in September of last year, sold at a sheriffs sale, we had 6 months to be out.
Additionally, I had legit student loans from when I got my degree in 2008 that were in deferment however, the deferment status on those loans was up, and there was nothing that I could do about it, so those loans went into default status.
When they went into default, they re-garnished my wages…
Insult to Injury
I understand that CitiMortgage had to do what they had to do, no hard feelings, so I made a pact with myself that I would keep the house in good shape for them.
We kept up the yard and made the house look nice however, since we could not afford the electrical bill (we literally didn’t have an extra dollar to our name) it got shut off.
On December 27th I went with my daughter and shut off the water to the house and drained the pipes so that the water lines would not freeze and burst. At the time we were still using the house as storage for all of our personal effects, hoping that by our ‘move out’ date of March 16th we could get our stuff into a storage locker.
While stopping by to pick up the mail, my wife noticed that the windows were fogged up so she went inside and discovered that the basement had flooded. The floor drains backed up, something that had never happened in 50 years. Our master bedroom was down there so a sizable amount of our personal effects were destroyed.
At this time I was finally broken, this house was owned by my grandparents before they passed away. My grandfather bought it after he came home from World War II, I felt and still feel like a total failure, I went to where we are staying and just wept.
The Worst Part
Since we had an unseasonably warm winter, the water in the basement evaporated upstairs and with all of that moisture, nearly everything we owned had an ugly shade of green mold on it, it was a total loss.
Some Good News
My precious wife ended up having her second spinal fusion in November which worked! It has cut her pain down to a manageable level! Seeing her smile makes me so happy! She even managed to halt her SS disability claim, the idea of us living off of the people that we graciously served is a non-starter, if we can work, we work!
She’s now happy and back to work which is helping however, at this point it really doesn’t matter, our debt is so bad that I feel like I’m trying to bail out the Titanic with a shot glass.
The Best News
In the New Testament we are promised two things: Food and Clothing
I’m happy to report to you that through all of this my children, my wife and I are not naked (the neighbors are rejoicing), we have clothes! Additionally, as you can see I’m writing this, so we have food! Not sure what will happen from this point on but if The Lord put you through a similar trial would you make it? Would you still love Him? We do!
We’re thankful! Poor, but thankful!
The Federal Government has come to the point where you really have no recourse as a brick in their wall. You cannot get on the phone and ‘make things right’, find someone to listen to your case, or even make a plea at all, unless you are an attorney. It’s turned into a faceless machine that simply rolls over the bodies of the poor, I know, I have lived through this.
I don’t know the answer, but I do know what it is not, more government.
PS: We’re not bitter at all, we’re thankful, but we’re also wiser.