I’m at a loss for words here… This is simply unbelievable, obscene, insensitive, awful… I don’t know what to call it:
Ungrateful Sallie Mae
By Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe, December 18, 2008
Ian McVey could have been anything. He chose to be a Marine.
It is not a path that most kids from Weston would take, but Ian Thomas McVey was not most kids. He coasted at Weston High. But when he transferred to The Rivers School, where his father taught Latin, he got serious and blossomed.
One day, he told his father, “I want to join the Marines.”
His father said he was proud of him, but had one caveat: go to college first.
Ian McVey went off to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in upstate New York, graduating last year with a double major in computer science and computer engineering. He spurned a lucrative career in the private sector to join the Marine Corps.
“I have wanted to be a Marine for as long as I can remember,” he wrote in his officer training application. “After September 11, 2001, I knew more than ever that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to serve my country, and after the attack I knew I wanted to join the Marines’ ranks and go into harm’s way so others would not have to.”
Last summer, Second Lieutenant Ian McVey got his orders. He was to go to Iraq as a platoon commander with the Second Combat Engineer Battalion of the Second Marine Division.
On July 19, not long before his unit was to ship out, McVey’s motorcycle was blindsided by a car driven by an 84-year-old woman near Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was killed instantly. He was 23 years old.
John McVey went through his son’s things. Cluttered bureau drawers. Photographs and memories. He also had to settle Ian’s college loans. He wrote to the lenders, asking that the debts be forgiven. Two wrote back, saying they would forgive the loans.
The third, Sallie Mae, the government-created college loan provider that privatized its operations in 2004, refused.
John McVey then wrote a very personal letter to Sallie Mae:
“In the process of his education, Ian amassed considerable loans. But Ian was steadfast in his desire to serve our country rather than begin a life in business where his income would have been double or triple his Marine service payment. Giving to our country was Ian’s calling, and we admired and supported his choice of service. He was a good and noble son and better friend.
“We are asking that you forgive Ian’s loans as his federal loans are being forgiven on the basis of Ian’s choice of service to our country as a patriot and so that our family may not have to bear these financial burdens while we deal with the inconsolable grief over the senseless, tragic and untimely loss of our son. While life has not been fair, we pray that you will be.”
Sallie Mae responded with a computer-generated letter that, aside from a “Please accept our condolences for your loss” stuck in the middle, was a demand for $53,144.
There was no name on the letter. John McVey’s attempts to get a human being to talk to him about this have been met with computer-generated voices.
“What bothers me most is we say our country is at war, but it’s only the soldiers, the Marines, and their families who are at war. We’re not in this together. Sallie Mae couldn’t care less,” John McVey said. “I put my heart and soul into that letter. And a computer wrote back.”
It is beyond obscene that a government now handing out billions in bailouts to boardroom executives whose idea of risk is using a 9-iron instead of a wedge on an approach shot could spawn a lender like Sallie Mae to soak the family of a young man willing to spill his blood for others.
Someone at Sallie Mae had to actually read Mr. McVey’s letter, they owe him more than a simple computer generated form letter.
H/T: Rachel Lucas.
Update: Good News Sallie Mae has decided to forgive Lt. McVey’s student loan:
Sallie Mae, the nation’s biggest provider of student loans, said today it would forgive the debts of a US Marine from Weston who was killed in an accident last summer shortly before he was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq.
Officials at Sallie Mae said they learned about the plight of the family of Marine Second Lieutenant Ian McVey in a column by Kevin Cullen published today in The Boston Globe.
McVey, 23, was killed when his motorcycle was hit by a car driven by an 84-year-old woman near Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was awaiting deployment with the Second Combat Engineer Battalion of the Second Marine Division.
After his son’s death, John McVey, a Latin teacher at The Rivers School in Weston, had written three lenders who held his son’s college loans, asking them to forgive his debts. Two agreed, but Sallie Mae refused, responding with a computer-generated letter that demanded that John McVey, as co-signer of his son’s student loans, pay the outstanding $53,144 debt. The letter was unsigned.
McVey said his attempts to speak to a person about the situation were thwarted by automated answering machines. Sallie Mae officials said the letter should not have been sent.
“Somebody hit the wrong button,” said Tom Joyce, a spokesman for Sallie Mae. “The wrong letter was sent. Somebody should have handled this differently. It wasn’t handled appropriately. We didn’t live up to our service standard.” Read the rest…
I’m glad to see Sallie Mae do the right thing here… As I said in reply to a commenter to me the issue wasn’t the money or whether or not Sallie Mae forgives the loan. It’s the insensitive and ham-fisted way they dealt with Lt. McVey’s father.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with grieving parents… A real live human being had to read Mr. McVey’s letter and could have – should have – responded in a more compassionate manner.