Stories of Former MAP clients
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity
Joe is a United States Air Force veteran who had previously run his own business as an independent contractor. After a dry period of work and a divorce, he founds his debts beginning to mount. As he recalls, “I lost everything….Everyone was calling me, bothering me, [and] taking me to court.” With liabilities owed to a variety of creditors, MAP assisted him in discharging his debt- totaling $67,661.56 of relief!
Today the client explains that he is relieved to no longer deal with the stress his bills caused him; and while he sometimes wishes he had not been in a situation where he had to file for bankruptcy, he recognizes that at such trying times, it is a fortuitous solution.
At the close of his case, the client praised his Military Assistance Project attorneys (Jennifer Cranston McEntee and James Proctor), saying “You guys were a godsend.”
Paul was a veteran who had served for 15 years in the Army. By the time he came in contact with Military Assistance Project, he had fallen on some difficult times, facing more than $24,000 in debt from various sources, including debt related to educational expenses. He had dreams of building up credit to buy a house and a car in the future, but with the debt hanging over him and the Department of Veterans Affairs garnishing part of his wages, he was in a tough financial situation.
His attorney at Military Assistance Project, Sarah Pitts, guided him through the bankruptcy process. Sarah was able to help him discharge $24,694.06 in debt, including his education-related debt, which had to be done through an adversary proceeding. Paul says that she was “very helpful” and “just awesome,” and that Military Assistance Project “gave him a fresh start,” so that he could “move towards [his] goals.”
With the help of Military Assistance Project, Paul states that nowadays, “everything is good and positive.” He now has a car, his credit is better, and he is progressing towards his goals.
Lisa is a former Navy servicewoman and has her associate's degree in nursing. She was deployed before completing her BSN, a circumstance which only recently has developed problematic tendencies (according to an article from Media Health Leaders, "associate's degrees may not be enough as hospitals are hiring nurses who have completed a bachelor degree (BSN) or a 3-year diploma program".)
2014 cutbacks at the medical center where Lisa worked impacted those with associate's degrees, and Lisa felt the direct hit as her hours were cut in half.
This former servicewoman works incredibly hard to raise her son by herself, but with her hours being cut; the IRS garnishing her income; and student loans piling up, it can be very difficult. Lisa explains, “I am drowning in all kinds of debt, and I am trying to finish school but never able to because I have to work a lot. My debts have caused me to lose my whole income tax this year as I had a garnishment.”
Through Military Assistance Project and the hard work of her MAP Volunteer Attorney (Jen Cranston McEntee), Lisa was able to get the relief she sorely needed- over $125,000 in discharged debt, total. Today she faces a much brighter financial future!
We should warn you now; this story does not have a happy ending. But it’s a good story with good people. It is a story of a war lost but a battle won.
Military Assistance Project received a phone call in January of 2014 from a client who needed to file an emergency bankruptcy. George* was a veteran who had served honorably in the United States Air Force and was now fighting stage 4 cancer. When George first got sick a year earlier in 2013, he applied for unemployment benefits instead of disability. He was paying permanent alimony in New Jersey and was too distracted by his health to notify the courts of his dramatic decrease in income. By January of 2014 his savings were gone, his credit cards were maxed out, his his unemployment benefits had been exhausted, and all but $875 of his Social Security benefits were being garnished to pay alimony. He was behind on rent, his landlord had gotten a judgment for possession, and he was a week away from becoming homeless.
He was also dying. He had stopped responding to treatment and his doctors had told him he would transition to hospice care in the next few months. George was determined to get better though. He told us more than once, “in a fight between me and cancer, you better worry about cancer!”
In some ways bankruptcy was the wrong instrument to fix George’s problem. George needed an attorney who could help him with disability benefits or a family law attorney to advocate for an alimony modification based on his changed circumstances. But George didn’t have the time required to sort those issues out. We had seven days to save his apartment, and in the short term filing a bankruptcy would put an automatic stay in place that would buy him 30 to 90 more days in the apartment.
We filed his bankruptcy at 7:00 am on the morning the Sheriffs were scheduled to remove him from the apartment. We had gotten almost nine inches of snow the night before. We persuaded his landlord not to contest the court’s automatic stay, and George stayed in his home. At his 341 hearing a month later, he George brought several mix CDs of music he liked for everyone who had worked on his case or answered one of his phone calls. He was still as sure as ever that he would beat the cancer and start rebuilding his life, without any debt hanging over him.
Two months later when we called to notify him that his bankruptcy case was closed, his sister answered the phone. George had passed away only two days after his debts were discharged.
Bankruptcy is intended to give people in debt a fresh start. It seems unfair that George didn’t get to make use of his. But we get a lot of comfort from knowing that he did get to spend his final months safe and warm and full of hope. We are so proud to have been a part of his fight.