Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) January 31, 2017 - Advocates for those who have taken out student loans claim that the government has been aggressive in its collection of such debts, even from borrowers who qualify for a disability discharge.
One person who was adversely affected by the government’s collection efforts is army veteran Hector Rodriguez.
During the 1970s, he took out student loans to attend college. However, eventually, he was forced to drop out because he was often hospitalized. Rodriguez subsequently defaulted on the debt, as was revealed in a lawsuit he filed against several government agencies in December 2016. He started to receive Social Security disability benefits shortly after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1973, and he has continued to receive them since then.
Prominent Tampa, Florida social security disability attorney David Magann says, “Disabled individuals whose student loans are being pursued by the government are advised to contact a Social Security disability attorney to learn whether there are any options available to them. They may well be eligible for a discharge in which case their disability benefits should not be garnished.”
Rodriguez’s disability was so serious that he was eligible to have his student loans forgiven through a total and permanent disability discharge (TPD). Nevertheless, in 2013, he was notified by the government that they were going to garnish part of his disability benefits to pay his student loans. He was never informed by the government that he was qualified for a disability discharge. Also, the debt collector who was employed by the government to take charge of his loan never informed him of a potential discharge, even though Rodriguez told him he was disabled.
Rodriguez is just one of many borrowers who are losing their disability benefits because of outstanding student loans. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in 2015, the government garnished the benefits of almost 114,000 people above age 50. Of these, over half were the recipients of Social Security disability benefits. Recently, there has been some attention paid to efforts made by the government to collect debts of students who attended colleges that are currently nonexistent, where the government has proof that such borrowers were defrauded and are thus, eligible for relief.
However, there are other cases, like that of Rodriguez, in which the government is in possession of information that reveals that the debt is qualified for discharge. Yet, the companies employed by the government to oversee the debt persist in trying to satisfy the debt. Many disabled borrowers are losing their benefits to garnishment, and are unaware that they can have their loans discharged.
In an attempt to remedy the situation for borrowers, the Department of Education is facilitating the process for those who are eligible for a disability discharge. In 2016, the agency matched its records with those of the Social Security administration and recognized almost 400,000 borrowers who were entitled to a discharge.
About 25 percent of them were in danger of losing their tax refunds or Social Security benefits because of the debt. The agency sent them a letter of invitation to apply for a discharge. In addition, the agency started to discontinue disability benefit offsets in situations where it is evident that the borrower suffers from a medical condition for which there is no possibility of improvement.
David W. Magann, P.A.
156 W. Robertson St.
Brandon, FL 33511
Call: (813) 657-9175
4012 Gunn Highway #165
Tampa, Florida 33618
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