Credit Counseling Industry

An Open Letter to The National Council On Aging “Please Stop”

Written by Guest Post

“Dear Mr. Knickman and the Board of Directors of the NCOA:
My Name is Eric Olsen, Executive Director of HELPS, a national 501 (c) nonprofit law firm that assists lower-income and poor seniors. I am writing concerning a topic of grave concern where the NCOA may be providing harmful information to seniors.

Your website makes this statement:

“Are you an older adult struggling to get out of debt? We have resources that can help. NCOA partners with GreenPath Financial Wellness–a nonprofit financial counseling and education organization–to offer comprehensive money management, budgeting, debt management, and financial counseling for older adults. GreenPath certified counselors have been specially trained by NCOA to advise older adults. They assist more than 200,000 people annually to achieve their financial goals.”

HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm talks with scores of seniors every week, some are enrolled with Greenpath or another nonprofit debt management company.

I just spoke with a disabled senior from New Jersey. Her income was around $1100 from social security. She was enrolled with Greenpath to pay past due credit card debt.

She was never told by Greenpath that her income was protected by federal law, and she didn’t need to pay this debt. Nor that Greenpath had a prearranged financial agreement with the credit card companies on whose behalf they collect. They retain a certain percentage of the money they are paid as a donation from the credit card company. A conflict of interest that was never disclosed.

She cut her prescription medicines by three fourths. She lived on peanut butter and crackers for weeks at a time to make her Greenpath payment.

It is a story that I have heard many times from seniors about Greenpath and other nonprofit Debt Management companies.

They never advise a senior that Social Security is protected. They hide behind the belief that stating such would be legal advice, when in fact it is the law.

I can provide scores of statements from seniors who have been taken advantage of by Greenpath and other nonprofit companies. Around a year ago, I reached out to Greenpath’s CEO and its corporate counsel about this statement in your website. I have been ignored, and their practices continue.

Greenpath debt counselors are not “specially trained by the NCOA to advise older adults,” as your website states. Debt Management companies like Greenpath act in their own financial interest and not that of the seniors they purport to be helping.

The NCOA receives tens of millions in funding each year from the federal government to assist older Americans. I am certain that the NCOA would never intend to steer lower-income and poor seniors, some of the most vulnerable among us in a wrong direction leading to greater poverty. Or fail to inform them of their rights. Or direct them to a company that withholds information and takes advantage. I am requesting someone contact me re this specific representation in your website.

Thank you, Eric Olsen Executive Director HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm”

A year has passed since I first sent this letter by mail to the NCOA with no response. Their website hasn’t changed. HELPS continues to talk with seniors placed in utter poverty enrolled with nonprofit Debt Management companies like Greenpath. Learn more about how and why nonprofit Debt Management and Debt Settlement Companies take advantage of seniors here.

HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm, www. Helpsishere.org, is a nationwide nonprofit law firm that represents seniors in order to stop unwanted collector contact. Federal law prohibits debt collectors from calling or sending letters to persons represented by an attorney. HELPS provides this representation. We also educate lower-income and poor seniors how they can maintain their financial independence. We never turn away any qualified senior citizen.

UpdateJuly 6,2020

NCOA sent me the following letter in response to the guest post above.

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