In recent years, ABI Presidents have pursued lengthy agendas, including the ABI Chapter 11 Commission, launching an ethics task force, and creating the Consumer Bankruptcy Commission – all worthy projects deserving our respect. I have a tough act to follow as the incoming president.
Last month, I was pleased to announce the formation of the ABI Task Force on Veterans Affairs. Led by members and U.S. veterans John Ames, John Penn and Jack Williams, the group is comprised of individuals who are committed to changing veterans’ lives in a meaningful way. The Task Force will examine how the bankruptcy system treats veterans differently, and unfortunately— less favorably. Recommendations and corrective steps will be proposed to Congress or the Rules Committee in the coming year to improve bankruptcy outcomes for all veterans.
Consider what it’s like for vets to return home with any one of the many issues our brave warriors experience after serving their country. And then add to that the financial burden imposed by their service— a burden exacerbated by the cost of transitioning to civilian life; the medical fees associated with caring for injuries; transportation expense to healthcare professionals located at inconveniently-located VA hospitals; and lost income each time they have to see a VA doctor.
Then imagine as the crushing burden of medical or consumer debt mounts, you may be treated in an unfavorable way under the current Bankruptcy Code— especially if you’re a disabled vet.
When a civilian qualifies for and receives social security disability payments, those payments are based on their past income, and in the event of a bankruptcy filing, are not counted as income under the means test. When a disabled veteran files a bankruptcy petition, their disability payments are counted as income under the means test. The effect of this disparity is that someone on veteran disability has a lower likelihood of being able to avail themselves of the complete discharge offered by chapter 7 than a debtor who receives social security disability payments. This is but one of the ways in which the Code fails to work for veterans and service members.
I look at this problem, and I am reminded that ABI’s membership has shown, time and time again, that when its talents are utilized and focused, we can literally redefine our field. And I ask, what solutions to this problem might be unlocked by the brainpower of our members? I know that we haven’t done enough to change the things we can for veterans.
For an organization that many associate with corporate mega-bankruptcies, we’ve achieved quite a lot to improve outcomes for individuals whose lives are impacted by bankruptcies – either their own, their employer’s, or the companies they have built that have fallen on hard times. And now, we’re going to make bankruptcy function better for those who have served our country.