Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Federal Bankruptcy Court Discharges Student Loan Debt Because of Supposedly Debilitating Nature of Asperger's Syndrome

Via the terrific Weirdlaw blog comes word of this case in which Judge Robert A. Gordon of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland issued a ruling discharging the student loan debt of a woman with Asperger's Syndrome.  As Weirdlaw comments:
I can’t quarrel with the overall outcome. This woman had amassed over $300,000 in student loan debt that she couldn’t possibly repay. She had started amassing the debt pursuant to her Rehabilitation Plan at 39, having never held a long-term job in her entire life. While education is often helpful, it’s unclear why Rehab Sevices would encourage a woman who’d never held a job in her life to go to law school, a profession that has a remarkably poor employment rate and high debt load, then drop out of law school and get a masters degree from some random place and then a PhD from an unaccredited online university, is just beyond me. All of these seemed practically calculated to saddle this woman with high student loan debt in return for utterly worthless degrees and no prospect for post-graduation employment. And, indeed, the debtor had not gotten a single job despite getting a Masters and a “PhD.” This is student loan abuse and ANYONE in a similar situation should have their student debt forgiven. 
In addition, it appears that Ms. Todd lost many of the supports that had made her few past employment experiences possible. Despite having a significant disability that made it difficult to live independently, she received no housing support, no vocational supports beyond funneling her into overpriced educational programs, and no independent living supports. She was basically set up to fail.
That said, the opinion itself focused less on the inequitable actions of the lenders and rehab people, and more on how her “eerie disconnectedness from a comprehensive life experience” as a result of her “incurable ailment,” i.e. autism.
Click on the links above to see just how ignorant and offensive were the comments of the bankruptcy judge -- and even the debtor's own doctor and expert witness! -- regarding the effects of Asperger's.



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