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Disabled Vet Sues Collection Agency Claiming Verbal Abuse and Harassment


A disabled veteran is accusing a debt collector of verbally harassing him and abusing him over the phone in an effort to collect a debt. The veteran and his wife are suing the collector, claiming that the collector illegally garnished disability compensation, and claiming that the collector told him “I hope your wife divorces you,” and “f*** you, you owe us money, pay us.” Collier also claims that the collector told him that he was “living off Social Security while the rest of us honest Americans work our a**es off.”

According to public documents, Michael Collier is a 100 percent service disabled veteran. He suffered a traumatic head injury and a spine injury. He is married to Kim Collier, a college student.

The collections agency, Gurstel Chargo, P.A., out of Minnesota, has issued a statement saying it does not condone this behavior among its collectors and that it is investigating the matter.

The court case is covered in more detail here. But servicemembers and veterans should know that a number of different federal laws provide them certain rights when it comes to dealing with debt collectors.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the following rules apply to personal debt. This is debt you sign for on your personal credit for personal use, such as credit card debt, school loans, consumer loans, and the like. The rules generally do not apply to debts incurred by businesses as opposed to individuals.

  • Collectors may not verbally abuse you. They cannot belittle or insult you, nor can they belittle or insult you to your family.
  • They cannot threaten to have you arrested.
  • They cannot talk to your employer or coworkers other than to leave a message. (Usually they will leave a phone number and a message asking you to call them back about an ‘important business matter’.)
  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8AM or after 9PM.
  • Debt collectors may contact you at work if you give them your work number, but they must cease contacting you at work once you ask them to, either verbally or in writing.
  • A debt collector must cease calling you if you tell them to. However, if you do so, they may feel they have no other recourse but to file a lawsuit.
  • If you have an attorney representing you, the collector must contact your attorney. They cannot contact you directly anymore, once you inform them who your attorney is.
  • Collectors may call other people, such as family members and co-workers, in an attempt to locate you.
  • They cannot publish a list of names of people who do not pay, except to give that information to credit bureaus.
  • Creditors cannot use obscene language.
  • They cannot phone you repeatedly to harass or pressure you.
  • They cannot make false statements. For example, they cannot claim they are attorneys unless they are, in fact, attorneys.
  • They cannot tell you the papers they are sending you are legal forms if they are not.
  • They cannot tell you that they will garnish your wages or seize your property unless they are permitted by law and they plan on taking that action.
  • They cannot bluff about legal action. They cannot tell you that they will take legal action against you if they have no intention of doing so.

The Soldiers and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act also provides substantial protection against creditors for servicemembers who have entered active duty – whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

Specifically, if you have entered active duty, either by enlisting, getting commissioned or being mobilized as a reservist or Guardsman, your landlord cannot evict you for nonpayment of rent if your rent payment is $1,200 or less.

Your creditors must reset any outstanding interest rates to 6 percent upon your request. The law does not apply to federally-guaranteed student loans, though.

Creditors must cease all bankruptcy, foreclosure, garnishing, seizure or eviction proceedings unless they get special permission from the court.

These provisions don’t apply to new debts you incur once you enter active duty. The law’s provisions only apply to debts that you took on before you enter active duty.

Can They Garnish my Wages?

Wage garnishment is mostly governed by state law. However, some sources of income are exempt from garnishment:

  • Social Security and SSI benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Service members’ base pay
  • Survivors’ benefits
  • Military annuities
  • Merchant seaman wages
  • Foreign service retirement and/or disability benefits
  • FEMA assistance

However, all bets are off if your creditors are trying to enforce back taxes, child support, court-ordered alimony or federally guaranteed student loans.

What To Do if You Have Trouble With a Creditor

If you are on active duty and you believe a creditor is acting in violation of the law, or you just want more information about your rights, you can contact your unit legal assistance office.

Anyone can also contact the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov.

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