Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Uncle Sam persecutes old, sick student loan borrower

An online piece for my Gen Debt column:

James Lockhart is a 67-year-old man with diabetes and heart disease currently living in public housing in Seattle. According to the brief before the Supreme Court, between 1984 and 1990 he borrowed $80,000 in federal student loans to attend various college programs. He never graduated nor found employment except for a few months in 1987. In April 2002, the Department of the Treasury officially informed him that his Social Security disability payments, then $874 a month plus $10 in food stamps, would be cut—“offset”--by 15 percent to pay his old student loans. Lockhart found legal help from the nonprofit group Public Citizen, founded by Ralph Nader.
If these trends persist, and if Lockhart loses his case, the Bush administration won’t have to bother with its plans for reforming Social Security. Benefits will be slashed anyway in 20 years to pay off everyone’s old student debt.

UPDATE: According to the Seattle P-I, "Skeptical Supreme Court justices on Wednesday sharply questioned a Seattle man's claim that the government was wrong to tap his Social Security benefits to pay off long overdue students loans.

The justices appeared unmoved by arguments that James Lockhart, who is disabled, needed all of his $874 monthly check to pay for food and medication."


Edie Irons said...

broken link

Anonymous said...

I think that's it is horrible that our government(the land of the free) would force this poor, old and sick individual to repay something that he definitely can't afford. If nothing else these situations should at least be looked at on a case by case basis. I have dealt with the US Department of Education and you can get bogged down in massive red tape. From my own personal experience there doesn't even seem to be a set of written guidelines that they use. Each time you talk to someone you find out something different. In these such cases something has to be done. How much will they really recover at $93 a month on an $80,000+ debt. He resides in a housing project, living on before the almight deduction $874 a month with $10 in food stamps. With the cost of medication and just plain old living expenses what is he suppose to do? This is very sad that they would make the poor, sick and elderly pay for something that when received it was thought that it could be repaid. Now his financial situation has changed drastically. I really think, his and others like him, situations really need to be looked at more closely.

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