Troops often Forced to Fight on two Battlefields; Home and Away; Is this the American Way?

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I receive a number of email from consumers who relay their massive frustrations when forced to fight for accountability and justice after being wronged, one way or another -through no fault of their own.

Whether their troubles began with an identity theft, mortgage fraud, predatory lenders, scams, illegal debt collection practices, or the credit reporting errors that won't go away, their complaints are legitimate and range from frustration to disbelief, and lately despair. 

Some report they felt forced to give up their longtime fight to right a wrong because it so negatively impacted their family and took over their life. Yet some people claim they can't give up the fight because it's their passion to right the wrongs - that becomes the force that takes over their lives.  

I often share stories I receive (with their permission) hoping that by doing so their stories help to humanize and validate the very real struggles many are forced to face -through no fault of their own.

Those who have followed this blog, know that I have such heartfelt respect and enormous gratitude for the extensive sacrifices our troops, and their families, make for our country -and our rights! They didn't pick our country's battles but they surely fight them-fair or not.

Torrey Shannon, wife of Staff Sgt. Daniel Shannon who was injured in Iraq in 2004, (neither of whom I have ever had the pleasure to meet) wrote the below unedited letter. This letter humanizes the unfortunate battles many courageous and selfless military families face -on two battlefields...the one thousands of miles away and the one right here at home.

Here's Torrey Shannon's letter -(with her permission).

Hi Denise..."The Reader's Digest" version of my story revolves around the financial aftermath of my husband's recovery after he was wounded in Iraq.  He suffered significant injuries requiring extensive in-patient and out-patient hospitalization.  His most recent surgery was only a short while ago, and it has been five long years since he bled on a battlefield thousands of miles from "home".  It's an ongoing recovery process and part of a bigger journey.  We knew the risks of his career choice -- but we did not fully realize the risks to our credit.  The sacrifices we would ultimately make or the debts we would ultimately pay were hidden within a FICO score.  

Thanks for sharing your story. I just finished reading your book and I cannot thank you enough for pouring out your heart and sharing your traumatic experiences with the public so others can avoid the same heartache.  You helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel, and sadly...I found I am not as alone as I originally thought.  I found myself nodding in agreement, gasping out loud, and feeling the pain you felt with real tears.  I was right there with you because I understand what you dealt with on so many levels.

Like you, I have come to realize my credit identity nowhere matches my true identity.  It's painful to have others determine your identity and be so wrong!

I feel it's time to share my story, but like you, it would take a book to go over it all!  I hope my words will let others know that, like you, I plan to create an awareness and bring change to a broken system.

Our family has survived many obstacles and we have grown closer and stronger than ever.  However, the one thing we have yet to recover from is our ruined credit.  We found a new battlefield right here.

We had to turn to the generosity of others at times, like when we had no money for basic needs such as food or medicine for our children.  While living five people to a small room at a hotel with no kitchen, we were blessed to have the ability to turn to non-profit agencies operated by true angels helping us get into our own apartment and on our feet.  At one point we didn't even have money for a hotel room and faced living in my car.  If it weren't for the people who DID treat us like humans with basic needs, I don't know how we could have survived.  Thankfully, our luck turned and I was able to get a job at the hospital where my husband was treated.   

Even though we paid all our late loans, credit cards, etc. entirely, we found that the tradelines report just as badly as if we never paid them at all!  How's that for incentive?  We were devastated...we do the right thing and we are still punished?  That makes no sense to me!

That's when I dug into the trenches of this new battlefield to find out more about the credit industry and how it REALLY operates.  I was shocked!  It's broken, riddled with loopholes and no one is held accountable in any meaningful way.  Now, years later when I should be enjoying our family time and cherishing every minute of life, I am forced to spend hours each day to educate myself on how the financial system DOESN'T work in order to hope to find meaningful changes so it really WILL work.

After my husband was first injured, we should have been focused ONLY on his fight for his life and keeping our family together.  Time does not stand still in the credit world.  In fact, creditors don't appear to be in touch with reality at all!  The abusive treatment of lenders and collection agencies and their constant barrage of threats clearly skyrocketed our stress levels.  I was told I would be jailed and we were both called horrible names...even with the collection agencies knowing that my husband had been shot in the head and was in the hospital.  They attacked our personal integrity...and they still do.  All they had to do was read the papers to see his face in the news.  To them, he wasn't a person....we were just deadbeats.  Years later we are still viewed as "deadbeats".   

We've paid everyone back and have had a clean payment history for the last three years.  However, the end of the reporting period of seven years is still many years away.  Now it feels like time IS standing still!  

The irony of this experience is a lender's right for their OWN freedom of speech.  The "speech" we heard by our creditors wasn't even squelched by the FDCPA...Free speech?  No.  What they have said was just downright abusive and illegal.  They didn't consider that the very same military members who put their life on the line for their rights were being abused by the lenders who asserted their "right" to say whatever they wished.

I am now looking at the possibility of never being able to have the "American Dream" we spent 16 years of our married life pursuing.  We put aside dreams of permanency and stability to serve our country.  When we retired, we figured we would be able to finally settle down and buy a home and enjoy the "American Dream".  He's retired now and on full disability.  The dream of having a home is so far off our horizon that I wonder if our day will ever come to have a permanency we've only dreamed of some day.

Am I whining and feeling sorry for myself?  Absolutely not.  Although we consider ourselves the luckiest people in the world in just about every aspect of what would be important, we know that others have had it worse and aren't so lucky.   

I am more determined to get laws passed that help support our wounded service members and their caretakers so they can get on with their lives.  After giving such a huge sacrifice in service to their country, the least we could do is pave the way for their eventual return to the civilian communities.  No military member should come home to an unemployment check and homelessness.
Your determination, dedication and passion for what is "right" and "just" in this world inspires me.  Hopefully my journey on this battlefield will end.  If you can do it, we can too.

Thank you, dear friend, for allowing me to share this story.  Thank you for showing me the way.  You've made a difference in more ways than you can ever imagine.  For that, we are all blessed.

To your continued success,

Torrey Shannon

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A memoir exposing the steep price consumers pay when facing mortgage servicing errors, inaccurate credit reporting, illegal debt collection practices, identity theft and weak consumer protection laws. THE BOOK » DENISE'S STORY »