Wiping out medical debt one veteran at a time

Julia LeDoux
March 06, 2019 - 11:55 am
The word debt marked through, yellow pencil

Dreamstime

Medical debts totaling more than $65 million owed by veterans, their families, National Guard and Reserve members to hospitals and medical care providers have been wiped off the books thanks to the efforts of RIP Medial Debt.

The company was founded in 2014 by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton. The two collections industry executives established the nonprofit company five years ago as a way to provide a tax-deductible means for individuals and organizations to assist those with overwhelming medical debt.

“Along the way, we began to notice that a surprising percentage of the people whose debt we were abolishing were active duty military and veterans,” Ashton recently wrote in the Huffington Post. “Like many Americans (even myself as a veteran), I believed that America takes care of the medical needs of the men and women who have served our country – many of whom have come back from several deployments with severe disabilities.”

Donations allow the company to purchase debt from collection agencies at pennies on the dollar. According to RIP Medical, that means for every $1 donated, $100 in medical debt can be wiped out.

The company is currently not able to pay the medical debts of those who reach out to it for help. Instead, it partners with collection agencies to identify veterans whose medical debts are in collection and buys the debt. The veteran then receives a golden envelope from RIP Medical advising that their debt has been cleared.

Those who get one of the golden envelopes don’t have to do anything further.  And since the debt payoff is considered a gift, it is also tax-free for recipients. Collection agencies are also required to let the three major credit reporting agencies know that the debt has been paid.

Ashton shared the story of a 73-year-old veteran who was rushed to the hospital following a heart attack. Hospital staff notified a nearby VA medical facility that the veteran required immediate bypass surgery. Staff at the VA center said an ambulance was on the way to transport the veteran to the VA facility, but the vet was already being prepared for surgery. The VA ultimately declined to pay the veteran’s $36,000 hospital bill because the veteran turned down emergency transportation.

Ashton said the veteran wiped out his savings and took out a loan, but still couldn’t pay off the debt.

“We are vigorously taking up causes as personal as this,” he said.

To learn more about RIP Medical or to make a donation, visit its website.

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