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Do you have debt you can't afford to pay?

Are You Receiving Social Security, Pension or Disability Income?


HELPS is a nonprofit law firm and 501(c)(3) charitable organization. We serve senior citizens and disabled persons struggling with debt.

Call HELPS now to learn how your retirement income is protected by law and how we can help.

Thank you for your information.

Need immediate help? Call 855-435-7787 to speak to a HELPS representative.

Cost of Living Increases Leaving Little Behind For Debt?

When Fixed Budgets Are Broken By Increased Prices

Social Security and Veterans Benefits and Most Pensions are Federally Protected Because They Are Intended To Support The Cost of Living.

If you receive Social Security and/or Veterans Benefits and you're waiting for a COLA for your benefits so you can afford the payments on your unsecured debt like credit card or medical bills AND manage to survive, you have the legal right to adjust your cost of living now. Social Security benefits were created to keep senior citizens from starving. They were not created to pay bank interest or unaffordable medical bills.

If you're a senior citizen or a legally disabled person with incomes protected by federal law such as Social Security Benefits or most pensions, you have options for dealing with payments on debt you cannot afford.If you want to learn more about why having federally protected retirement income gives you the right to adjust your monthly budget to meet your cost of living, keep reading to find out more.

The Historic Cost of Living Adjustment Wasn't Enough

In January 2022, the U.S. Government made a cost of living adjustment to all Social Security benefits. The adjustment was a 5.9 percent increase, the highest rate of increase to benefits in the last 40 years. Unfortunately, this increase was not enough to keep pace with rising prices. By June 2022, the consumer price index had grown 9.1 percent in the preceding 12 months.

Whether the increase in prices is due to inflation, price gouging, or a mixture of both, the current cost of meeting basic necessities is higher than it has ever been.

Perhaps you can remember doing story problems in grade school math. Here is a story problem many senior citizens and legally disabled persons face:

Martha receives 1225 a month in Social Security benefits. Martha pays 450 dollars for monthly rent. Her medications and copays are 117 dollars her monthly utility bills are 228. Gas and insurance for Martha's older car costs 174 a month.

What money does Martha have left to pay her credit card and medical bills? What happens if Martha is a real human and has more expenses not listed here? Most importantly, How much money does Martha have left over to buy food?

The answer to these questions leaves Martha making a choice between paying the debt or feeding herself. In August 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the monthly cost of feeding oneself for a female over 71 years old is 243 dollars. This is an figure averaged from food prices across the United States. With 256 dollars left after meeting her monthly expenses, Martha is left making a decision increasingly common to retired persons struggling with debt. Paying debt or buying enough to eat.

How Legal Protections on Social Security and Retirement Income Can Help.

When retirement income is protected by federal law, it is not subject to garnishments or levies resulting from consumer debt. Creditors and debt collectors do not want you to know this. Debt settlement companies do not want to tell you this. Some bankruptcy attorneys need to do a better job communicating this basic fact: debt collectors and creditors cannot legally enforce the collection of any unsecured debt against any protected form of income.

Let's use another example based on an actual HELPS' client (some details changed for privacy purposes) to help explain this point:

Thomas Jones, an 83 year old widower in Texas,receives 175 a month in Social Security benefits and a 1900 dollar pension from his former employer Dallas Independent School District. Thomas owns a home. It has a mortgage but he feels very lucky to have it.

The past few years have been hard for Thomas. He lost his wife to cancer. He also lost her income. His medications have dramatically increased in price. His home furnace broke on the same day his dentures cracked. Finally, when his son lost his job during the pandemic, Thomas used his own credit cards to keep the grandchildren fed.

Thomas has not fixed the furnace or repaired his teeth. After making the minimum payments on the credit cards, he can barely afford increasingly expensive food, fuel and medication. Lately, he has been skipping doses to make his presciptions last longer.

Thomas has been making minimum credit card payments for years. His credit is good, but the card balances never go down. He lives in daily fear of what is going to happen if he can't keep up. He doesn’t want to lose the family home or deal with debt collectors.

One night, when Thomas cannot sleep, he spends some time researching options for dealing with debt. He finds HELPS. When he contacts us, we are happy to tell Thomas his incomes are protected by state and federal laws. He will not lose the family home if he cannot pay the credit cards. We are very happy to explain that he does not need to use his protected income to pay the unsecured debt he cannot afford.

When Thomas chooses to stop making payments on the credit cards, he has more money available for his basic necessities. Thomas can buy enough medication. Thomas has enough money to meet the incrased price of food. Most importantly, Thomas does not worry about what will happen if he can't pay the credit card debt.

Using HELPS to Deal With the Debt Collectors.

Unfortunately, having legally protected income and assets does not mean you will not be contacted by debt collectors if you do not pay an unsecured debt. Fortunately, federal law has an answer for this problem too.

Using the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm provides representation for the purpose of receiving communications regarding the collection of debt.

Let’s break down how that works.

If a person becomes a HELPS client, he/she will give us a list of companies contacting him/her about an unpaid debt. HELPS then sends notices (letters) to these companies. Our notices communicate three important things.

  1. Our client survives on federally protected income. This communicates to the company that suing our client will not result in an available source of income to garnish or levy. This also communicates that our client understands his/her legal rights and will not be intimidated into paying a debt he or she does not have to pay.
  2. Our client cannot afford to pay any debt allegedly owed and will no longer be paying this alleged debt.
  3. Any future contact regarding collection of the alleged debt, whether by demand letter or a debt collection call, needs to come to us. We are HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm. Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors in receipt of notice regarding a debtor’s legal representation must communicate with the attorney, not the debtor.

Having a law firm retained to receive debt collection communication means you can enjoy your protected income while not dealing with unwanted debt collection contact.

Receipt of debt collection communication is not the only thing we do, but it is our primary focus. We believe persons with protected income should not be subject to unwanted debt collection contact. We know a lot of senior citizens are struggling with debt. The National Council on Aging reports that about a third of senior households have no money left over each month after all debt expenses are met. And these are the households that can meet their debt expenses.

We spend every day talking to senior citizens and legally disabled persons who have gone to great lengths to pay their debts. Most of these people have worked hard their entire lives. They are devastated, exhausted and afraid of what is going to happen next. We are always happy to inform senior citizens and legally disabled persons about the laws protecting them. We believe all senior citizens, disabled persons and veterans have the right to choose survival over paying for unsecured debt.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this information.

Find Out More About HELPS

Peace of Mind
These HELPS clients were dealing with harassing debt collectors and anxiety over old Debt. HELPS provided a solution to their financial worries.