On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
65°
Sunny
H 84° L 56°
  • cloudy-day
    65°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 84° L 56°
  • clear-day
    66°
    Afternoon
    Sunny. H 84° L 56°
  • clear-day
    70°
    Evening
    Sunny. H 74° L 56°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Local
#RIPVetDebt: Behind the Action News Jax campaign to wipe out some medical debt for local veterans
Close

#RIPVetDebt: Behind the Action News Jax campaign to wipe out some medical debt for local veterans

#RIPVetDebt: Behind the Action News Jax campaign to wipe out some medical debt for local veterans

#RIPVetDebt: Behind the Action News Jax campaign to wipe out some medical debt for local veterans

Action News Jax spent $10,000 to help forgive $1 million worth of medical debt with the aid of New York-based charity RIP Medical Debt, which bought a veteran debt portfolio, then notified local military that some of their debt was forgiven.    

"I ran a physician organization for about 19 years and Jerry (Ashton, co-founder of RIP Medical Debt) came in trying to sell me collection services," said Robert Goff, founding director of RIP Medical Debt.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW YOU CAN HELP WIPE OUT VETERANS' MEDICAL DEBT  

Goff and Ashton spent decades in medical billing and collecting, watching the impact on families who couldn't pay.  

They decided to do something about it. Ashton remembers the conversation:

"We're going to go out and make a corporation charity, and we're going to go raise $50,000 and then we're going to buy and abolish $1 million worth of medical debt," he said. "'What do you think of that?' I said, ‘That's about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!"

Buying veterans' medical debt: How it works

RIP Medical Debt buys up bulk debt from collection agencies for pennies on the dollar and forgives it.  

"We kind of call ourselves predatory givers,” Ashton said with a laugh.

According to the charity's latest federal tax documents, more than 87 percent of donations to RIP Medical Debt go straight to helping people.

Ashton, a Navy vet himself, said the organization's goal now is to wipe out $50 million worth of medical debt for veterans and active-duty military.

“We were shocked to learn that there’s over $6 billion worth of unpaid emergent care sitting there that the VA refuses to bankroll,” Ashton said. "The ambulance would pick them up, and instead of going the 120 miles to the VA hospital, they will take them the 3 miles to the hospital where they need to be immediately. That's not recognized as a bill."

The inspiration behind #RIPVetDebt: Our veterans

Northeast Florida is home to more than 120,000 veterans. Action News Jax is committed to covering issues important to our fighting men and women, which is why we donated $10,000 to help pay off $1 million in veteran medical debt.  

“We’re so proud as journalists and as members of this great community to be able to dig into a story and find a way to help people in need," said Bob Longo, general manager of WJAX/WFOX/WOKV. “These veterans sacrificed for us, in many cases put their lives on the line. This is the right thing to do, and we hope the community is able to join us in this effort.”

RIP Medical Debt also buys and forgives medical debt for civilians across the country. For Goff, the charity's campaign to target veterans is about paying them back.

"They took a pause in their life to serve this country. Now, we have to get them back on the track and help them do that when they need that help,” he said.

Did you get a yellow envelope? Let us know

Action News Jax never knew the names or medical conditions of any recipients of the donation -- only the number of letters sent out and the cities they were mailed to.  

We ask anyone who received one of the letters -- in a bright yellow envelope with the Action News Jax, News 104.5 WOKV and RIP Medical Debt logos -- to reach out to us using the contact information inside the letter.

If you’d like to join Action News Jax and News 104.5 WOKV in helping local veterans, click here to make your tax-deductible donation.

Our goal was to raise at least $10,000 to help pay off $1 million of medical debt for active-duty and retired veterans.

It's our way of giving back to those who have given so much for all of us. We hope you'll join us.

Click here to help Action News Jax and News 104.5 WOKV wipe out veterans' medical debt

LISTEN TO THE NEWS 104.5 WOKV #RIPVETDEBT SPECIAL:

FACEBOOK LIVE: PAIGE KELTON EXPLAINS HOW THE #RIPVETDEBT CAMPAIGN WORKS

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • Ahead of an approaching cold front, Northeast Florida saw a line of strong storms roll through. Some of those storms prompted severe thunderstorm warnings and a few tornado warnings from the National Weather Service of Jacksonville. The NWS does believe an EF-0 tornado did touch during in northern St. Johns County on Tuesday evening. At this time, WOKV has not received any reports of injuries, but there have been reports of damage and downed trees.
  • Following the recent passage of a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus measure to help families and businesses with the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic, WOKV's Consumer Warrior Clark Howard is breaking down some of the finer details. Howard says adults making up to $75,000 a year will get a $1,200 check, while a married couple making up to $150,000 will get $2,400, with $500 payments per child.  STORY: Are you getting a stimulus check; how much will it be? Use this calculator to find out However, Howard says that $500 payment doesn't include every child.  'You will not get money for your teenager. So, once your teenager goes past 16, they're out of the picture for the $500,' explains Howard.  Howard says this $500 payment also does not apply to other types of dependents, like if you're an adult taking care of your elderly parents.  Get more consumer news and advice from Clark Howard in his latest on-demand podcasts by clicking HERE.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is working hard to make sure people throughout the state who are unemployed are getting the assistance they need during the coronavirus pandemic. That means hiring more staff members to help people who are trying to apply for unemployment benefits. Executive Director Ken Lawson signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor over the weekend to execute the CARES Act in Florida. Lawson says his staff is working hard to implement those resources to Floridians as soon as possible. The week before most businesses closed due to government orders, the Department of Economic Opportunity received 28,000 calls. Last week in just four days, they received 130,000 calls. That higher volume of calls is overwhelming the staff, but it looks like help is on the way. Anyone who calls right now should expect to wait on hold for upwards of an hour, but hopefully that wait time starts dropping soon. The Department of Economic Opportunity is hiring 100 people statewide to answer calls, walk people through the application process, and handle processing applications. Florida residents eligible for reemployment assistance include people quarantined by a medical professional or government agency, people who have been laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period of time or people caring for an immediate family member diagnosed with coronavirus. Any Floridian whose employment has been negatively impacted by the virus can get more information here.
  • Isolation and fear during the coronavirus pandemic can create the perfect storm for domestic abuse. Some experts say victims are like prisoners in their own homes during quarantine.  “We’re talking about a horrible situation. People who normally might be able to call us, reach out to us, stop at our outreach center or go to work and look online to find how they can get help are prisoners in their own home,” Hubbard House CEO Gail Patin, EdD, LCSW, said.  Anyone who needs help and can safely get away from their abuser is asked to call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or Hubbard House in Jacksonville at (904) 354-3114.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is searching for a suspect they say is wanted for solicitation to commit first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Police identify the suspect as 23-year-old Bobby Taylor.  If you've seen him or know where he is, you're urged to call JSO at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

The Latest News Videos