Kevin the Veteran

Published by Tim Dingman on 10/27/2020

Welcome to Case Chronicles, where we tell the stories of people who received student loan debt relief via adversary proceedings.

All information in Case Chronicles is from the public record, but we have changed any names to provide some privacy.

Photo by Brett Sayles

Meet Kevin Rosenberg. Kevin lives in Beacon, New York, a small town on the Hudson River. He’s a Navy veteran, a former lawyer, a small business owner, and an avid outdoorsman.

Kevin’s story made headlines in early 2020 when a judge granted him a full discharge of his student loans — erasing more than $220,000 in debt, Yahoo Finance reports.

It started almost two decades ago, when he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1993. He partly funded his education with a ROTC scholarship and 20 to 40 hours of work a week, doing his best to pay his own way through college. To fund the rest, he took out federal student loans.

After graduating in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in history, Kevin served in the Navy for five years. Upon returning to civilian life, he attended Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University in New York and earned his law degree in 2004. 

Despite financial assistance from the G.I. Bill and similar programs, Kevin graduated with more than $100,000 in student loan debt.

As do many law school graduates, Kevin quickly found that practicing law was not for him. Unfortunately, degrees don’t come with money-back guarantees; in 2005, Kevin started repaying his debt.

The next few years were difficult. With no credential in a desired profession and no work experience outside the military, Kevin couldn’t get a career off the ground.

He struggled with unemployment and underemployment, including a layoff during the Great Recession in 2008. One of his student loans went into default the same year.

With the same work ethic he used to help pay for college, Kevin started a small business in late 2008. He opened a little storefront in Brooklyn to rent and sell camping gear and provide a guide service to New Yorkers looking for a break from city life.

Photo by Eric Sanman

Kevin’s business has delivered quality gear and services to countless patrons for over a decade, but hasn’t turned much of a profit for him. In 2017, an ill-fated attempt at expansion left the company with considerable debt and cut Kevin’s personal income in half.

Even worse, he underwent back surgery the same year, which left him unable to operate his business fully. Kevin no longer had enough money to meet many of his obligations, including his student loans.

In March 2018, Kevin filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7. Other than his student loans, Kevin had little debt, but he simply could not let his student loans continue going unpaid and accruing interest. A few months later, he filed an adversary proceeding to seek a discharge of his student loans.

As in most circumstances, the judge applied the Brunner test to determine whether or not Kevin’s student loan payments amounted to “undue hardship.” In her ruling, the judge wrote about the “myth” that student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy and called out the bankruptcy attorneys who tell their clients the Brunner test is virtually impossible to pass.

The judge found that Kevin passed the Brunner test and granted a full discharge of his $221,385 in federal student loan debt.

Unfortunately, Kevin’s lender has appealed the case, leaving his debt in place and his future uncertain. While the ultimate fate of Kevin’s student loan debt is unclear, his case shows that student loan debt discharge is possible and that judges are willing to grant relief to borrowers  who are struggling to repay their loans.

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