My wife and I are struggling with debt from taxes owed, hospital visits, and a lost job. We're totally overwhelmed and not sure where to turn. How can we try to fix this mess?

My wife and I are struggling with debt from taxes owed, hospital visits, and a lost job. We're totally overwhelmed and not sure where to turn. How can we try to fix this mess?
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My wife and I file married jointly every year. In past years, we’ve typically gotten a small refund. This year, I became unemployed one week before Christmas. I also lost my insurance. My wife is totally disabled and receives an SSI check of ~$1000 per month. I was able to find a job in the first week of February, but we were already 2-3 months behind on bills. Then I found out we owe the IRS $1060 in taxes due to my wife’s SSI. I tried to get a loan for the $1,000 but wasn’t able to. Then I ended up in the hospital with COPD (congested hear failure). I’m glad to be alive, but now I’m out of work again, owe the IRS, have a huge hospital bill, no insurance, and can’t seem to get help from SSI, DSS, or any other government. We’re even having trouble affording gas for the doctors visits. i guess I just do not know where to turn to help make this better. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you James A.


Sorry to hear about your troubles.  You can try to contact the Financial Planning Association to see if there is someone in your area who can provide some pro bono advice. Also the IRS will often offer payment plans in hardship cases, can't hurt to ask. Did you have someone look at your taxes? Maybe you overlooked something. Anyway, here is website for FPA probono program.


That is a lot to cope with all at once. It is hard to be in a position of asking for help, as most of us were not taught to do that. There are resources out there for you. 

In addition to calling the FPA for some pro bono (free of charge) advice, you could check with your local United Way-or try calling 211, the nationwide Information and  Referral number to connect you with social services in your area. Also check for the American Heart Association in your town or state, they may be able to offer information or assistance. Here are three toll-free numbers for your use at the Heart Association.

  1. 1-800-AHA-USA-1
  2. 1-800-242-8721
  3. 1-888-474-VIVE
Some hospitals will work with you to create a payment plan or can write off your expenses. As with any financial or credit situation, the most important thing is to communicate early and often.

Also, with the Affordable Care Act (and if your family is totally without insurance and under 65), you maybe eligible for coverage in your state. Visit to see if can enroll outside of the regular open enrollment period. 

Good luck to you and your wife.


I am sorry to hear about your debts.  Regarding your hospital bill, I agree with Dana that most hospitals have financial assistance programs by which your debt may be reduced, written off or taken care of by a charitable organization.  Please call the accounting office and ask for the forms for financial assistance.  

Make sure your paperwork lists everything you have mentioned here.  If you are still left with a balance to pay, making small monthly payments may keep you out of collections as long as you do not miss a payment.  Good luck.   


By IRS delinquency standards, your liability is trivial.  Wait until you get the 4th Notice by certified mail then call IRS at 800-820-3903 and tell them what you posted here and the account can be classified as currently not collectible.  It will still be due and if you have a refund in the future it will be offset but there will be no agressive collection action taken unless your financial situation improves. 


You have received a lot of great advice but wanted to also suggest getting help from a medical bill advocate if you can not get charity care in place after speaking with the hospital.
Best of luck to you!
Cheryl Welch, MBA
Hudson Valley Medical Bill Advocate


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