I’m an ARMY Civilian on orders with my family in Kaiserslautern, Germany. My joint student loan with my ex-husband has ruined me and prevented me from being able to go back to school for my masters, which limits my career and earning potential for my family, as well as it adversely affecting my security clearance and job stability in general.
Specifically, because I work in ARMY finance and we cannot have financial problems. Security sees financial problems as increased risk for blackmail or espionage. I cannot work in ARMY finance without a security clearance. Because I’m in default and unable to rehabilitate the loan I have to provide our security managers proof of what the debt is, embarrassingly explain that my ex-husband is not responsive, and show that I make monthly payments (at least up until CARES was enacted). In 2017, I had my first scare with my clearance. I set up EFT payments of $350 monthly, but because I’m not on a payment plan, I stay in default.
My ex-husband was active duty ARMY, retired since 2017, and last I heard was 100% disabled. I’ve worked for DoD since 2007 and we made payments timely until the divorce where I walked away with my children and my education and experience and a couple of bags of clothes, we left Germany the first time, going to a women's shelter in 2012 at FT Stewart, GA. I then awaited to start a new job there. When I and my children moved out of my ex-husbands residence in Germany, I lost my job because I no longer resided with him and I was hired as a military spouse overseas (OPM guidelines).
I paid on the loans as best I could and when I could. Because I did not have credit or credit cards, some months I’d be paycheck to paycheck when there were unplanned expenses. I stupidly agreed to assuming the student loans in the divorce while he took over the credit cards he ran up. Weeks after our divorce was finalized in 2013, he filed bankruptcy and the credit cards, also joint account creditors came after me.
We had three daughters, and I have since remarried to a German National who is medically retired due to a stroke a couple of years ago, so we have a single income. Although I earn a good salary, my credit has been bad due to the student loan default and I’m unable to get a car loan so we use older vehicles and have to get them repaired until they die, then buy another beater. My insurance increased as a result of bad credit.
As my girls began graduating high school I knew I could not help them financially with student loans so they were prepped knowing that they would have to plan for paying for college. The oldest joined the Army Reserves. It was never even a consideration that I would be able to afford to pay for their college. Their father is not involved. He frequently misses child support payments. He refused to sign the form for the girls to receive their retiree dependent ID cards because he said they didn’t deserve it. I had to go through due process for them to receive their IDs. When my oldest graduated high school he told her that her “gravy train” (child support) was over. He refused to acknowledge helping at all with post secondary education for the girls.
He refuses to give PHEAA (holder of the defaulted joint student loans) any information or respond to letters they mail him. Because of the screwed up laws with these horrible instruments of financial slavery, and in order to rehabilitate the loans to a payment plan, they would compute his and my income. I wouldn’t be able to afford the minimum by myself considering both incomes. And, it doesn’t matter because he’s non-responsive. Last month my daughters saw where he posted online that he was divorcing his latest wife and was living in a sobriety halfway house and was looking for someone to take his dogs.
My degree was the best thing I ever did for myself and has been instrumental in me getting into a Federal position, but it came at a heavy cost. How can an Accountant have integrity when her personal finances are destroyed by divorce and she lives under the constant pressure of default? I gave up a few years ago but have realized it’ll take me at least until my 50s before I can pay this off.
We received the consolidation in 2003 because he was an E4 with low pay and we had 2 young kids, and would have our last in 2005. We were eligible for WIC back in those days, but his parachute pay put us over the maximum to be able to receive food stamps while he was active duty. Also, for me to go to school, a good portion of my student loans was used for day care. I have been paying on it for most of 20 years now, while he was active Army and I was an Army civilian but none of those payments count towards forgiveness. I was told that he may be eligible for forgiveness of his loans based on his military disability, and since we’re both worked for DoD, but he has to do the paperwork. He won’t. I can’t do it on his behalf, even though I’ve been the only one paying on it since 2013. I realize how many bad choices I made in my marriage, in my divorce. It’ll take me 30 years to pay this off, all the while my children have really been the ones to pay the price for their mothers mistakes. Anyways, this is the gist of my dirty secret, the shame hanging over me with daily reminders of my failures.
Here is the last loan repayment verification document I had to get in December to have my security clearance adjudicated again.
My ex-husband put us through hell in a 3-year long divorce with custody and support disputes. Even though I hate him for what he has done to us, I pity him and don’t want to publicly call him out because of his sobriety and mental illness. He received 100% disability due to mental, not physical disabilities. He was an surgical scrub technician and was deployed for a year in Afghanistan and witnessed some terrible things. I can’t fix him or help him, but it’s not in me to kick someone when they are already down.
These are terribly unforgiving loans with high compounded interest rates and fees that are structured in away that even when common sense says that I’ve made payments and have earned forgiveness by working for the DoD, I do not receive any credit. These instruments are comparable to how people think of pawn shop and payday loans, and title pawns. They pray on desperation. When life happens, they benefit off of people's suffering. Insult to injury is how the companies operate. Even being in Germany, they’d call weekly to ask me if I wanted to rehabilitate my loan. Then I’d tell them I had a joint consolidated loan and that my ex is non-responsive, to check the notes on the account. I’d ask if the rules had changed and they’d just say "Oh yeah, no change in the rules."