My Total & Permanent Disability Request Was Denied and My SSDI Got Garnished

Question:

Dear Steve,

The Department of Education denied my TPD (Total & Permanent Disability) form when Navient was still Sallie Mae back in 2010. Since then, I’ve had my SSDI offset after I started receiving collection notices through a 3rd party company contracted by the Department of Education.

Fast Forward to 2016, and I was finally able to have a TPD form accepted with the help of Senator Dianne Feinstein after California AG Kamala Harris couldn’t help me. When it was all said & done, I was only reimbursed 14% of what was offset & my credit history was shot.

I lost out on a decent apartment in a neighborhood that didn’t have as much crime compared to where I had to rent an apartment and be a victim of various crimes & harassment. This was after I didn’t qualify for a co-mortgage due to the Department of Education’s actions that tarnished my credit report. (The mortgage company that denied me actually was sued due to “costly loans”)

I had to re-establish some credit history & the only credit card I could obtain was a WebBank Fingerhut Advantage (WFA) card.

After making purchases & using my SSI from California for monthly payments, I relocated to a different state that didn’t offer SSI like the state of California did. I was placed on food stamps instead.

Due to Social Security’s local branch office error, it took 6 months to change my address after several attempts when I relocated, and I did not realize that the new state I was living in had a low monthly income limit to qualify for SSI payments like I received in California.

Social Security did waive payments of SSI I had received from California due to their relocation address change error, but being placed on food stamps severely impacted my monthly payments to WFA, because all of my SSDI went to rent & bills+out of pocket medical expenses.

I was able to obtain a letter from the local Social Security office that admitted their address relocation error, but WFA denied me enrollment in their SafeLine Account Protection Program twice. Not knowing what to do, I couldn’t afford any payments for a few months, but then started making low monthly payments once I could spare a few dollars a month.

Unfortunately, my interest is $22 a month, so none of my payments have been applied to principal & I’m now in default & can’t purchase anything at all.

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I attempted to contact the FDIC & was offered no help, but have chronological statements from WFA. I then attempted to contact a law firm that helps those who have issues with WFA, but they couldn’t help me either, since I was looking to settle with WFA once I received the pandemic stimulus check.

After many attempts to contact WFA, they denied my settlement offer, so I’m now paying $5 a month via money order. My credit history has gotten worse & I don’t know what to do since WFA no longer responds to my questions about any hardship programs for customers on SSDI & food stamps.

*I do not own any other credit cards, but do have 2 monthly bills in my name that aren’t used by any credit reporting agencies.

1. Do you know any attorneys or law firms who can help me obtain the remainder of my offset SSDI?

2. Have you heard of others who have similar types of issues like mine when it comes to WFA?

3. Can I sue WFA for not having a hardship program for those of us on food stamps & SSDI?

4. Are there any government programs available to help disabled Americans who shouldn’t have to file bankruptcy?

5. Are there options I could take in explaining my situation to credit reporting agencies?

Missy

Answer:

Dear Missy,

I went and asked someone I know that has more experience with these issues than I do. Eric Olsen from HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm deals with these issues more often than I do. Here is what he had to say to your questions above.

  1. “You won’t find an attorney to attempt recovery of your offset. The Dept of Education takes the position that until TPD was granted, their offset was authorized. It is questionable if the facts are in your favor, and even if they are, it is not a case that a pro bono(work for free) attorney would take up. Unfortunately, not all wrongs can be made right.”
  2. “I have not.”
  3. “You can sue anyone for anything, but whether you have a case or can win is a completely different issue. You had a contract with WFA. The contract spelled out your rights. The reasons you cited, being on food stamps and all your money used for rent and bills, for not paying WFA are not reasons in their “Account Protection Program” to have payments waived. WFA has no obligation to settle a debt with someone who owes them money.
  4. “No. However, your SSD is protected by federal law. It can’t be garnished or taken from you if you are sued. You can send a cease and desist letter to a debt collector as provided in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which requires them to stop contact by phone or mail. HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm is a 501(c) charitable law firm that represents lower-income seniors and disabled persons as their attorney to stop unwanted collector contact. You can learn more at www.helpsishere.org.”
  5. “Credit reports allow you to provide an explanation for negative entries. The desire for good credit for persons with low income like someone on SSD can be a “red herring.” A person could have perfect credit, but a legitimate lender would look at the income and realize that person needed all their money for their basic needs and could not afford to pay for extended credit. The exception could be high- interest lenders who count on their ability to aggressively intimidate a person, not knowing their rights, into making payments. Good credit is often seen as important in being able to rent. Primarily as an assurance to a landlord that the tenant’s income won’t be garnished and they would be unable to pay their rent. Here is a press release from HELPS that discusses solutions for persons on SS and poor credit.”
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I think Eric Olsen gave you some direct and honest advice given your particular situation.

I’m curious, what is the balance you owe on your WFA card?

Please post your answer in the comments section below.

Sincerly,
Steve

You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.


Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

6 thoughts on “My Total & Permanent Disability Request Was Denied and My SSDI Got Garnished”

  1. Thanks for posting Steve! And thank you & Eric for your answers. My full balance is just under $1000 but I can make a minimum payment of just over $400. I wanted to settle for a much lower amount, but my stimulus is totally gone.

    I did get quite a few replies from the Department of Education & most of it was a “wait on future legislation” kind of thing for a full reimbursement.

    There’s also that CFPB lawsuit waiting in the wings, re: “Navient, Formerly Part of Sallie Mae, Illegally Cheated Borrowers Out of Repayment Rights Through Shortcuts and Deception”.

    I think what I’m trying to find out is why disabled Veterans are treated better as far as forgiving student loans, being reimbursed & having their credit restored compared to the rest of Americans who are disabled.

    My main issue on the TPD hangs on the “medical review” term which is normally 5-7 years for permanently disabled Americans vs. 3-4 years for disabled Americans who may be able to return to work (I’m only assuming, since I never received any sort of answer as to why a federal agency couldn’t verify disability of a student loan borrower from another federal agency).

    I was under the impression that physicians from a major hospital had filled out my TPD form from 2010, and to this day, I don’t understand why it was denied by Sallie Mae. Hopefully the CFPB & several state AGs will be successful in their lawsuit.

    WFA reminds me of an online payday loan type of place with all the higher pricing+interest, but I didn’t have any problems until I tried to negotiate a monthly payment. When I would suggest $20, they said they could only do $21 or higher kind of thing.

    I had asked the FDIC if this was discrimination against disabled account holders & they couldn’t find any merit to that complaint.

    The SafeLine Account Protection Program denials were due to my situation not being within their time frame to qualify. Since I had “moved” in August, but Social Security didn’t change my address until April the following year, I wasn’t within their time frame term to qualify for “moved” & since I was already disabled for quite a while, I didn’t qualify for their program under “disability”.

    This is why I didn’t contact HELPS when you had posted about them a while ago. But I’m hoping more people will be willing to speak up.

    Reply
    • So here is the sad thing, the TPD thing is so much better now than it used to be. Hard to believe. Your observations and criticisms are very valid. There is no such thing as fairness and equality when it comes to government programs surrounding student loan issues. I can tell you that TPD is not supposed to work like this. Once you have an SSDI determination it is supposed to flow right into the TPD system and cut the red tape. Nothing is a shocker when it comes to your experience with WFA.

      Reply

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