By Consumers for Quality Care, on January 18, 2023
Samaria Bradford, 27, from Goldsboro, North Carolina had dreamed of joining the Air Force before her plans were derailed due to medical debt, according to KHN. First qualifying in 2020, she delayed her enlistment so she could support her younger sister who was in high school. During that time, she worked multiple jobs but also had a variety of health issues and a car accident that resulted in visits to emergency rooms.
As she was preparing to leave for basic training, Samaria received a notification from her recruiter informing her that she would need to set up payment plans to address the $5,000 she had in medical debt before the Air Force would consider her.
Air Force Recruiting Service spokesperson, Christine Cuttita, stated, “Credit checks aid in determining recruit financial responsibility while aiming to safeguard national security.” Cuttita also confirmed people can be disqualified from enlisting because of debt.
Samaria stated, “I was very upset and surprised. I didn’t know your medical debt could stop you from joining.”
The Biden administration has advised federal lenders to no longer include medical debt when evaluating loan applications. In addition, VantageScore, a company that calculates consumers’ credit scores, has said it will stop using medical debt as a method of determining a credit score.
Samaria is keeping her head held high and doing what it takes to enlist still. She is working to pay off her debts and studying for the qualifying exam again as her original scores from 2020 are no longer valid. She stated, “I’m trying to solve the problem now to go ahead.”
CQC urges lawmakers to address the root causes of medical debt that can impact patients’ lives in so many detrimental ways, including preventing brave men and women like Samaria from serving in our country’s military.