Department of Education threatens to dock man's social security check
Here's a twist on student loan debt: a FOX 5 viewer - an elderly man - is fighting the federal government over outstanding loans he says he doesn't owe.
Willie Chaney, who never graduated high school, has been trying to convince the Department of Education he did not recently attend college in Arizona. But, a year and a half later, once again they're threatening to garnish his social security check.
If this happens he said he’ll struggle to pay his rent. And groceries?
“Noooo,” he said he couldn’t pay that too with reduced income.
And this is not speculation on 74-year-old Willie Chaney's part. He's sure of it. Last year at this time, the Department of Education docked his social security check over an outstanding student loan debt they say he owes. And they're threatening to do it again.
FOX 5 has been helping Mr. Chaney since November sort out what he claims is a case of identity theft. According to the government, Mr. Chaney took out a federal student loan and went to college at Rio Salado Community College in Tempe, Arizona. A place he said he couldn't point to on a map.
“It's a funny thing though, I suppose to be in college, but I don't know what course I'm taking up.”
Records show he took introduction to cinema and sociology. Mr. Chaney said he's been trying for more than a year to tell them that the address on the paperwork isn't his. The names listed as grandparents? They aren't his either. Remember Willie Chaney is himself 74 years old.
Still he can't get the loan discharged because he's struggling to prove ID theft.
“Everything they send me I already done did. They want me to read this paper and, uh, check off this and that and get it notarized then I done did that so many times,” he said in frustration.
June 26th he got another threatening letter. Pay up or the government will take the money from his social security check. Again.
The letter reads: In order to qualify for identity theft discharge, you must submit a court decision made in your favor with a detailed description of how it relates to your student loan.
“I don't even really know what that means,” he said.
He admits he's outgunned and has no idea what to do. For months, FOX 5 has written the school and the Department of Education about Mr. Chaney's case. The federal government says it's "continuing to work on this case diligently." We ask if it might be time to find a lawyer.
“I can't afford no lawyer! I can't do that.”
But this retired truck driver also can't afford to stop fighting back.
“I ain't gonna give up. No m’am. I might give out,” he said laughing. But he’s not giving up.