Car Dealership And VA Team Up To Damage Wounded Veteran's Credit

When Kat and her husband traded in their old Ford Focus, the dealership told them that they would be able to pay off the loan faster than the couple could. This was true, if by “faster” they meant “not at all.” See, Kat’s husband was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, and is due a $19,000 grant from the Veterans Administration to buy a vehicle. This grant is a check cut directly to the dealership. Two months later, the VA, acting with all of the swiftness and efficiency that government agencies are known for, hasn’t sent the check yet. Naturally, instead of actually contacting the couple about the issue, the dealership just went ahead and didn’t pay off the loan as promised. They won’t until the check from the VA shows up. This is affecting Kat’s husband’s credit, and is just generally rude.

She writes to Consumerist:

My husband and I have reached our wits’ end with a current car purchase/trade-in situation. We’re retained a lawyer and are looking at all our options, but I also want to know what other organizations/government entities I can contact to report the abhorrent behavior.

My husband, Aaron, was wounded in Afghanistan and for his troubles the VA gives amputees a vehicle grant of roughly $19,000. This grant goes straight to a dealership within 2-4 weeks of submitting the paperwork. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, but a phone call to the VA gets a check cut and received within 10 days. We disclosed all of this to [redacted] of [redacted], MD when we went in to out-right purchase a new car. We also traded in our Ford Focus.

By contact, they are obligated to pay off the our car loan (they said they could do it quicker than we could, hence why we didn’t do it). We paid them the difference between the loan and what they offered for the car. In total, we wrote them a very large check, minus the $19,000 for the VA grant, to purchase our new Volvo. Of course, the check cleared in two days. The last thing I said to the sales manager was to call us the minute the VA grant was late.

Fast forward two months later, and we’re getting calls from NBT Bank, the holder of the Ford Focus loan. Not only had the dealership not paid the loan off, they had not even contacted the bank. Also, they had ALREADY sold the Focus. So husband’s credit is dinged for months of non-payment, and the dealership refuses to pay off the loan until they receive the VA grant (that “policy” was never, ever disclosed to us at any point during the sale, and only has become an issue since we’re asking them to simply do what they said they would in our contract).

Who do I report to? What entities should know about this? I know about reporting the BBB, but I’ve read enough “they don’t care” stories to know it won’t really help us much. Who do I ask for help? Should we pay off the loan before they do and sue? This is just disgusting behavior. I’m not even pulling the “amputee veteran” card because no one should have to go through this.

They accepted the terms of the grant but now want to treat us like we haven’t fully paid for our car and it’s ridiculous we’re asking them to pay off the loan. We couldn’t get the grant issued to us if we wanted to (I asked)- it always goes to the seller. I look forward to your comments and questions and ultimate guidance. Thanks so much!

The infinite wisdom of the Hive Mind will have more recommendations, but I would start by contacting the Maryland state attorney general’s consumer protection office, and see whether any local TV or print reporters are interested.