“You’ve been very, very good to me.”

In early 2016, Marvin Johnson spent time in the hospital, leaving him with more than $38,000 in medical expenses. With limited income from his retirement, he could not afford to pay the amount that insurance didn’t cover. Soon, he started receiving letters from collections agencies. Marvin said the amount creditors said he owed were increasing over time: “[The] collection agency they [the hospital] turned it over to was charging $25 every three months or something.”

In March of 2017, Marvin Johnson stopped by the legal clinic at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center, where he spoke with a staff member from the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. She told him that his situation may make him a good candidate for Legal Aid’s Bypass program. Marvin said he’d never heard of that before; “I thought I had to wait and file a bankruptcy.”

After the VA clinic, Legal Aid Attorney Melissa Linville called Marvin and explained that he was long-term uncollectable. This meant that since his only income was Social Security and he did not own any property, he was exempt from collection. Attorney Linville also explained that, through the Bankruptcy Bypass Program, Legal Aid would send letters to his creditors explaining that he was “uncollectable,” asking the creditors to cease all communication, after which they must stop harassing him with bills.

A couple of months later, Marvin took copies of all of his financial information to the Bypass Clinic. In less than an hour, a volunteer law student put together a current list of creditors which was then used to draft and mail out letters to his creditors. About a month later, the letters had stopped.

Marvin said he didn’t expect it to be that simple, and that it felt wonderful when the creditors stopped sending him letters. “You’ve been very, very good to me.”

 

 

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