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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 89392
Experience:  Attorney experienced in commercial litigation.
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Problem: DFAS (Defense Finance & Accounting Service) put a

Customer Question

Problem: DFAS (Defense Finance & Accounting Service) put a negative entry on my credit report for an account that I didn't know that I had to pay.

Constraints: I'm American live and work in Japan.

Background: I used to work on a Naval base in Japan as a contractor. I got a skin infection and a Naval doctor suggested that I just stay a few nights at the navy hospital in late 2007. I assumed that my health insurance would pay for the stay so I didn't think much of it an agreed to be admitted. I was scheduled to start a new job in Tokyo, away from the naval base, so I contacted the Navy Hospital account manager and gave my contact information in case of any billing issues. I never heard anything so I assumed that everything was okay. I also check my credit report every year and never saw anything negative until 2012. After several back and forths with Experian, the Collection agency, and a call to the health insurance provider, I discovered that my health insurance provider didn't pay the full amount and the Navy Hospital didn't enter my forwarding address correctly in the account system so I never knew that I owed money. The telephone number that I provided is still the same as it is today but nobody ever contacted me. The actual hospital stay was billed at an outrageous amount of almost $7,000 so the amount remaining is $1200 plus supposed "late" fees of about $500.

Question: Although I understand NOW that I owe a remaining balance, I don't think I was treated fairly and what was once my pristine credit rating is now destroyed because the Naval Hospital and DFAS cannot follow instructions. I don't mind paying money that I actual owe but I don't think that I should have to pay "late" fees. Furthermore, since the Naval Hospital and DFAS made the error, any amount that I ultimately pay should be under the condition that the negative entry is removed immediately. My question is what are my options for handling this situation quickly and painlessly as possible?

Notes: I have already disputed the issue with Experian, the Collection Agency, and tried contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but with no success.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

If they never gave you notice of the debt and you can show they had the proper address, you can indeed argue that you should not owe the late fees, but this is something you need to fight with the billing department and negotiate. If you do not negotiate these fees away, while it is likely that you could get them removed, you would only be able to do so by going to court against them and suing for removal of that fee through their negligence. Unfortunately, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, they claim the debt is valid, you claim it is not, so you would not have a claim under that Act.



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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

PaulMJD,


 


Thank you for you response. I understand that your reply is only based on what I wrote.


 


1. When you wrote "billing department", does this mean the Collections agency or the original organization that sent me to a collections agency? According to DFAS, once an account is in collections, DFAS and the original entity does not respond to requests - we have to deal with the Collections agency directly. (http://www.dfas.mil/debtandclaims/paymydebt/failuretopaydebts.html - "Once an account has been referred to a collection agency, you must contact the collection agency directly to discuss all aspects of your account, including payment arrangements."


 


2. It is my understanding that we cannot sue a government agency such as DFAS - is this not the case?


 


I have illustrated in several correspondences to Experian and the Collection agency that the wrong mailing address was listed. I have tried to contact DFAS but they just refer me to the Collection agency.


 


Is there no way out of this loophole?


 


Thank you again for your help.

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your response.

Yes, you need to contact the collection agency and negotiate with them if the debt is moved to collections.

You can sue a government entity only if they consent to be sued. If they are improperly reporting a debt against you, then under the FCRA they are not exempt from being held in violation of that act for reporting an incorrect debt. They are also not exempt from being sued if they are pursuing an improper debt against you.

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