Vietnam veteran fights to keep house after health, economy fail
Tulsa World, Okla.
TULSA, Okla. — Terry Don Miller's kitchen counters are covered with tomatoes he grows in his garden in Claremore. His fingertips are stained from his woodworking project in the garage, a changing table for his soon-to-arrive first grandchild.
This is his home, and he's fighting to keep it.
His kitchen table is covered in boxes of documents showing struggles with his mortgage servicer and the foreclosure lawsuit filed against him by Wells Fargo.
Miller served his country in Vietnam, then worked in California with his hands to earn a living. He finally moved back home to Oklahoma to get his piece of the American dream: a home he could own.
In 2002, when Miller bought his home on more than an acre in Claremore, business making cabinets and doing custom carpentry was good, as was his health.
But the economy and Miller's health took a sudden turn for the worse in 2008. He ended up on disability after a series of strokes.
Getting qualified for Veteran's Administration disability benefits takes some time, so Miller's wife went to work and they applied for a mortgage modification through their servicer.
He kept sending in the required documents, and his servicer kept losing them. He applied at least three times. It took 19 months before the servicer told him no, then filed foreclosure.
He has spent nearly $10,000 and four years fighting it.
Last month, he scored what may be a temporary victory.
A Rogers County District Court judge dismissed the lender's foreclosure suit against Miller, saying the company could not prove it had the necessary documents to foreclose.
"Until it's official and done, I ain't getting too excited about it," Miller said, while feeding his chickens.
Five days later, Baer Timberlake Coulson & Cates, the firm representing Wells Fargo, filed another petition for foreclosure. Miller hasn't applied for the attorney general's Resolution Oklahoma program yet, but he said he hopes the $5,000 vouchers to hire an attorney could defray some of his legal costs.
He's not giving up his fight.
"I want to keep this house," he said.