Ive suffered severe PTSD symptoms all of my life. This includes intense anxiety, sudden crying jags to the point of hyperventilation, constant fight or flight mode, insomnia, nightmares and night terrors, severe bouts of depression, suicide attempts, outbursts of rage, fear of people (hermiting myself), complete inability to trust and have relationships, etcthe list goes on. There is no one thing that caused this. It began as a very young child from physical, mental, verbal, sexual abuse and severe neglect, including starvation, all of which also caused brain scarring and massive spinal deformities which have caused me intense and constant pain for more than 20 years and only gets worse as I age (currently every disc in my back is bulging and 2 have herniated). From age 17 to age 25 I suffered many more traumas including homelessness, having my infant stolen (NOT a removal due to abuse or neglectI mean stolen literally), raped, held hostage, beaten, etc.
At age 20 (1992) I attempted to attend college but needed some help so I took out some student loans. I should have never attempted college. I was not in any condition but I really wanted to be normal and productive. I wanted success like anyone else. I think I thought this would heal me. I just barely made it through 3 years of college, thinking Id become a teacher. During the last year and half to 2 years I was so sick with depression, anxiety and frankly, what seems to me now to be a psychotic break that I couldnt leave my home. I literally could not make myself get out of bed even to bathe. I went without bathing for so long at a time that I was covered in filth and sores. I was so sleep deprived that I began to hallucinate.
Not a day went by that I didnt cry uncontrollably. I went to several different counselors, starting with one at the school who found my illness to be too serious and referred me onto someone qualified to help me. I was ultimately put on various psych drugs and even put into a psych ward for a short time then pulled from school under medical orders (1996). I was told I should apply for disability because the doctors saw no hope for me to ever be fully functioning in society. I was too depressed to even fill out the disability paperwork then finally decided disability would just be the death of me to be so isolated so I forged on in hopes I could eventually get better enough to cope. The doctor told me I shouldnt concern myself about the student loans since he thought there was some sort of discharge available due to my circumstances.
A few months later I went off the drugs and moved away. I stayed in contact with the student loan holders who said all I could do was file forbearances until they ran out so I did that as I had no money and no job. Very soon Sallie Mae is contacting me telling me they now own all of my loans and I need to start paying them more than $400 per month (1998). I explained that I didnt have that kind of money. I was working a job earning $7 an hour and struggled to get through the work day due to the PTSD issues. I earned exactly the amount that my rent and electricity cost each month. The only food I could afford were packs of peanut butter crackers and the occasional bologna sandwich. I asked about any types of discharges that may be available and was told they do not existthere is no such thing. So, I filed for economic hardship and was repeatedly denied. How it is I didnt qualify for that is a mystery to me.
By 1999 Id been harassed so much and was so afraid of what would happen to me if I didnt get this cleared up that I remember distinctly sitting in the middle of the floor, on the phone to Sallie Mae, knife in hand (ready to kill myself because Im worth more dead than alive!) and bawling, begging someone to help meexplaining my situation and why I didnt finish school and how I now cant even afford to see a counselor. I was coldly told, repeatedly, there was nothing they could do. I was forced into default.
This went on for several years with them saying one thing on the phone then not doing it and saying they never said such a thing (he said/she said), telling me they are sending applications that might help me but none arriving or when I did send them back theyd say they didnt get it and phone calls and letters never answered. My $17,000 worth of loans had exploded. (As of 6-2011 they are at approximately $43,000)
In 2003 I was again at my worst and lowest place ever in my life. I couldnt even hold a job anymore. In yet another phone conversation with Sallie Mae Im told they can probably approve me for economic hardship but Id first need to consolidate my loans with them. It was explained to me that though they owned all of my loans Id be more likely awarded the economic hardship if they were tallied together into one loan. I trusted this and never even realized it was yet another loan I was signing. Id have done anything and signed anything to get this off my back so I trusted them. I signed a consolidation loan without fully informed consent and under duress. I was told I was given a deferment then in 2005 I received a letter stating the loans held by Sallie Mae had been rescinded and therefore my balance zero and they would be contacting all credit reporting agencies of this update. I was about to move to TX as an attempt to remove myself from abusive people and start a new life with a new job and hopefully a great new counselor. This news gave me so much hope for my life. I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, I was remiss in throwing out years worth of files concerning my dealings over the loans, including this letter.
I was settled in Austin, TX by October of 2005. All was fairly peaceful, though I went through several more bouts with the PTSD hitting the extreme but by New Year 2008 I had a few good people to support me emotionally and a wonderful counselor who was teaching me techniques to manage my symptoms without medications. My tax refund of a little more than $400 was very late, causing me to get further behind on my rent. It took a lot of phone calls but I finally learned that my refund had been captured to pay a debt but I didnt know what debt. A few days later I received a letter from a collection agency that they were working on behalf of TSAC (Tennessee Student Assistance Corp) to collect a student loan debt that was now edging on $40,000 (a nearly 250% usurious increase).
Apparently, Sallie Mae charged off this debt to TSAC rather than rescinding it. As an aside, I now realize that I either I completely misunderstood the 2005 letter from Sallie (and the credit reports showing positive marks of these debts rescinded/paid in full) or they intended for me to misunderstand. Either way, there was no attempted contact from anyone until suddenly my tax refund went missing. I put 2 and 2 together=TSAC captured my tax refund. This entire slap in the face out of nowhere sent me spiraling into another anxiety ridden, suicidal depression phase of such severity I very nearly gave up. I am so thankful I had the support system I had or I would not be alive today.
I had access to the internet and did some research. I learned they were not supposed to take my refund without first notifying me. TSAC never even denied not notifying me, but refused to return the refund. I didnt feel like I had any options so I let it go. I felt bullied into submission. My tax refund was kept illegally.
In my research I finally came across the discharge due to disqualifying status (due to mental illness) application. That must be what that doctor was talking about more than a decade ago! Sallie Mae had knowingly withheld this information from me. I was extremely stressed and wrote all kinds of emotional rambling letters and emails begging for help from TSAC but never received responses. I tried to fill out the application the best I could understand it and sent it to them. That was March of 2008 and I have, to this very day (June 2011) never received a response to that application. I waited and I wrote letters and I made phone calls but could not get anyone to reply or respond. I was even literally hung up on consistently. The next thing I hear from anyone is in the late summer or fall of 2008 and it is a letter from yet another collection agency trying to collect for TSAC, although the account was under review (the application). I still couldnt get anyone to answer my letters or phone calls.
I didnt even know who to ask for and where to direct letters but kept trying. It was beyond confusing & frustrating. Since Id not heard back on the application, I filled out another one and mailed it in. Again, no response. Over all these years I have always made sure whoever had these loans knew how to contact me. I always gave my home address and phone number. Always. I was out of work between October of 2008 to March of 2010. I got married in April of 2009. I assume that due to my unemployment status they didnt try to collect anything for a good year. However I continued to send letters and inquire as to where they were in the application process, etc. Naturally, it was more of the same. No response. I requested a copy of my file. No response. I finally found an email address to a Mr. B--- H---- (of TSAC) who actually lied to me (in an email) saying there was no such discharge anymore. He sent me to S-------- A---- (of TSAC) who also ignored me and on it went...round and round in circles.
In February of 2010 my husband calls me from his job saying hes agreed to pay over $200 per month to pay up my debt. He knew all about the student loan fiasco but apparently this person that called made it sound like something else and was just trying to get him to commit to making payments to them by threatening to file lawsuit. My husband was very upset knowing we couldnt afford it and thinking Id hidden something from him. As Im trying to call these people, collection agency or TSAC, my husband calls me again even more upset because his father (an elderly Korean immigrant who barely speaks English & lives 1000 miles away) had just called in a panic because a very rude and angry person had called him making threats about his daughter in law not paying her debts! These phone calls to my husband and my father in law broke several laws as I am sure is clear and I do not have to list those collections regulations.
My husband was called, which caused intense marital stress and was misled in order to get a payment agreement we could never afford. Luckily hed not yet signed anything! Then my elderly immigrant father in law is nearly pushed into cardiac arrest for being contacted in the same afternoon. And yet no one had bothered to call me! They had not answered my calls, letters, emailsthey had my phone number, email address and mailing address but no one ever bothered to contact me! I was actually beating my brains in TRYING FOR MONTHS to get some communication going but no one would call me back or respond to letters and emails. Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture so far?
I also learned that a guaranty agency has 90 days to give a written decision on an application for discharge or it is automatically approved and discharged. Of course no one will acknowledge this. I've asked about it repeatedly with either no response or sidestepping the question. That is only one of a mountain of wrongdoing, including fraud that Ive had to suffer through in trying to clean up a mess that should have never been a mess to start with.
My husband had a program through work that helped pay legal expenses so we hired a lawyer who helped some though we were trying to save up our legal benefits for going to court so the lawyer mostly instructed me what to do. I filled out 2 more applications for discharge due to disqualifying status. One was not acknowledged and the other was denied. I was sent a notice of tax refund offset in August of 2010 and immediately filed an appeal, requesting a telephone hearing (that hearing has yet to happen now June 2011) and requested my entire file (again, for at least the 3rd time). I was actually told (by Mr. G------- out of the Colorado TSAC office) I had to explain why I want the file and/or why I think I dont owe this debt before the file would be sent to me. I did this, grudgingly, explaining the very painful & very personal truth of my life, abuse, traumas and mental illness. It is not a requirement that I explain why I want my file or have to go over the contents of my disqualifying status and yet this is not the first time Ive been forced to do that, which is nothing less than sadistic mental torture when you already have all of this information, ad nauseum, in the files! I feel like a game, as if Im a mouse theyve cornered and get kicks out of tormenting.
Our attorney was rather insistent that we sue. He even wanted me to sue for damages; not just what TSAC is trying to make me pay in supposed loan debt. In August of 2010 my husband was hit by a car and very seriously injured (we are 2 surgeries down and at least one more to go). Then in November of 2010 cutbacks took our legal benefits at my husbands job, and then by February 2011 my husband was notified he was being laid off. Needless to say, we had to stop using our attorney.
Finally, for once, I began getting some responses from TSAC. I was notified by Sept 2010 that the offset had been stopped until further notice.
I later received a letter that the discharge application was denied due to my not proving that I do not qualify for any employment under my current education level, and something else that wasnt required. When I inquired about this in a very detailed and lengthy letter, I was ignored. I appealed to the DOE in December of 2010.
My tax refund of little more than $1000 was captured in January 2011. I was told it was a mistake and TSAC would return it to me. (I have that in a recorded phone call among other recorded calls/voicemails) I received a copy of my TSAC file in January, which contains almost nothing considering the exhaustive efforts Id put into maintaining contact. There are a couple of my very emotional letters which were never responded to and a discharge application that was never responded to but not a whole lot else. There was, included in my file, a list of other borrowers names and social security numbers. Notifying TSAC of this little slip up sure got me a lot of communication from them but never any straight answers about MY situation.
The end of April 2011 I received a decision from DOE citing they were upholding TSACs decision to deny my application, not because of the reasons cited by TSAC but because Id not proven that I was both diagnosed at the time of certifying the loans and that the school was aware of the diagnosis. No where in any of the terms and conditions, instructions or requirements does it note anything about proving a diagnosis or that the school was aware. It only requires that I prove I had the condition at the time of certifying, which I easily proved with psych records and letters from counselors. Not only that but shouldnt the school and/or lenders make ability to benefit part of the lending process??? Never did anyone ask me or explain anything to me...I didnt have a clue I may not be able to benefit. I had clue about very little, in fact.
To bemoan this point further; in the letter from the DOE where they uphold TSACs decision based on the fact the school wasnt aware of my illness, they state The Program only requires that schools properly certify the students ability to benefit and eligibility to borrow at the time the loans are certified. Well, THEY DIDNT mention anything about ability to benefit or if I had any problems that could interfere...there was certainly no document signed stating we had any such conversation and I understood my ability to benefit was at risk. So, it would be fair to argue (in a long list of arguments) that 1. the loans be fully discharged for the school NOT following this requirement before certifying the loans and/or 2. the loan agreement/promissory note null and void due to uninformed consent?
The fact they are all jumping from one excuse to the other, no one can get their facts straight, the right hand doesnt know what the left is doing and I cant nail down one person within any of these organizations to give me any comprehensive answers whatsoever says a lot. They are underhanded, dishonest bullies. Im certain theyve already gotten back more than twice what I borrowed, and yet they wont shoot it straight with me or approve an application Ive qualified for all along but had to suffer for nearly two decades due to them (SM, TSAC & DOE) withholding information. I recently discovered, in the file copies I received, that Sallie Mae had 30 days from the time they learned of possible discharge qualification to inform me of that potential discharge, send the application and instructions to me. Not once in over a decade did they ever inform me of this discharge. In fact, they lied repeatedly telling me no such discharge existed. So there again is another regulation broken to such abusive extent the discharge should be approved just on that basis alone.
Im now being told I cant have my 2011 tax refund because I have to appeal that somehow? I already did but they never scheduled the hearing! That is just blatantly illegal! And yet they get away with it because they are dealing with people who are poor, uneducated, lacking resources and in some cases even mentally and/or physically disabled to the extreme. How sick can a system be that manipulates and takes advantage of such people?
At my job it is my responsibility to open and distribute mail. On Monday 6-27-11 I opened an envelope addressed to HR. It was from a collection agency under TSACs heading. It was an administrative garnishment order. Regulation is that they give a 30 day notice before submitting garnishment orders to employers so that you have chance to appeal and have a hearing. I have yet to receive a notice. Id not known about it had I not just happened to be the person opening mail at work. I wrote to several people within TSAC, the DOE and the collection agency questioning this but no one will answer me. Also, the garnishment notice is in my maiden name which I havent used in years and TSAC has known of the change from the start. Ive been trying for weeks to get onto the NSLDS website but always get error messages that my information doesnt match up. I wrote to TSAC but received no response. I finally called NSLDS, twice, and after being put through two different people I was told it is because my PIN is under my married name but the accounts are still under my maiden name so I have to notify TSAC of my married name so they can make the change at NSLDS. Funny, TSAC has known about the name change since it happened in April 2009. I notified TSAC that they need to make the change at NSLDS so that I can access the accounts listed in my name but I hold no hope it will ever happen. Again, my hands are tied. What am I to do, put them in time out if they dont do their jobs? Borrowers have zero power when it comes to student loans. There seems no checks and balances, no oversight within student loan lenders, guarantors or even the Federal DOE. Its all so slimy and sick.
Ive even (grudgingly) offered settlement just to be done with it even though I do not owe them a dime. I offered to settle at a set amount of between $10,000-$18,000 (at various times) but was ignored each time. The last time I offered to discuss settlement was about a month before the garnishment notice was sent to my employer. As a part of my settlement Id insist to have it in writing that it be a firm amount that will not change with added fees/interest for as long as I made my payments on time. I think they dont want that because they are so incredibly greedy. With the fees/interest set the way it is and all the underhanded things they do to make you seem like you arent trying or they didnt get payment, etc...Id be paying $350+ per month for the rest of my life and NEVER get it paid down even if I lived to be 90. That is insane even for people who arent sick and who are rich.
I already had serious mental/emotional problems when this started twenty years ago with the first loan being certified. Over the years since being pulled from college Ive not only had to struggle with my existing illnesses but with blatantly unnecessary lies, bullying, stalling, withholding information/options, etc. from Sallie Mae, TSAC and now the DOE. That has increased the amount supposedly owed by nearly 3 times what was borrowed! It has cost me jobs. It has cost me homes. It has cost me the opportunity to attain and/or maintain proper health and mental care. Ive lost teeth, had massive vomiting spells due to anxiety (at times dropping to 20-30lbs), lost years worth of sleep, had severe relapses in the PTSD episodes and Im now, currently, under the care of a spine specialist as my back has deteriorated to that of an elderly woman with every disc bulging, baseball size knots in my muscles, causing me constant pain. It has cost me my health both mentally and physically. It has very nearly (and I am not exaggerating) cost me my life. It has now caused tremendous stress on my marriage and my new job and very nearly undone all of the work I have done to manage my illnesses. In short this has cost me the last twenty years of my life in every way and for what? Because they make more money on a defaulted loan than a paid loan or a discharged loan. Lets line some more pockets on the backs of the desperate, while taking away EVERY protection that person would have under any other credit/debt situation. Its evil. It is criminal.
At this point, they should pay ME $43,000!!!