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'Secretary of Veterans Affairs' foreclosing on disabled Tampa Bay area vet but it's not the VA

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BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – John Mckenzie’s legs are no longer strong enough to walk to the second floor of his Bradenton home, but the disabled veteran is blocked from selling his home by what he claims is an “illegal” foreclosure.

The plaintiff in the foreclosure complaint filed against Mckenzie is an entity named Secretary of Veterans Affairs, of Washington, D.C., but it has no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Attempts to find contact information for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs have been unsuccessful.

Mckenzie, 62, of Bradenton, fought back tears with a voice weakened by strokes, claiming a combination of lost documents, bankrupt companies and questionable filings in his case have left him days from potentially losing his home.

“I think they already stole my house, to be honest with you,” Mckenzie said. “I don’t know what will happen. It seems they can do anything they want.”

Records reveal a confusing paper trail in Mckenzie’s case, with multiple companies tied to his VA-backed mortgage going under since he bought the home with a VA-backed loan in 2002.

“All of a sudden they would go away and then another servicer would show up,” Mckenzie said. “I’d say, ‘What is going on here?’ It was confusing.”

He claims he did not know who to pay and the lienholders seemed confused too. The five-year statute of limitations for collecting the debt ran out 11 years ago. Records show he owes just under $190,000 for the home with an estimated value of about $400,000.

Mckenzie hired title researcher Donna Steenkamp, who alleges a single payment was made on the property in 2014 to reestablish the statute of limitations.

“[Mckenzie] did not make that payment,” Steenkamp said. “Why would he make a payment? He did not know who to pay, and the statute of limitations had run out.”

8 On Your Side asked the VA about this company using Veterans Affairs in its name, and a public affairs officer said the agency is looking into the question and Mckenzie’s case.

The attorneys representing Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the bankruptcy filing have not responded to requests for comment.

Mckenzie’s time is running out. A for sale sign is now stuck on his lawn without his approval and the foreclosure sale is scheduled for next week.

“It makes me sad, angry, upset,” Mckenzie said. “Wanting to get even but get even with who? I don’t know who to get even with.”

The foreclosure sale for his home is scheduled to be heard in Manatee County Court next Thursday. Steenkamp now has control of the title for Mckenzie’s home, but the final decision will be up to the judge in the case.

Mckenzie has also filed what is known as a quiet title complaint, that she said could stall the foreclosure.

“They should not be able to legally sell this home,” Steenkamp said.

Court records show Secretary of Veterans Affairs has filed foreclosure claims against other Tampa Bay area homeowners dating back to as early as 1989.

“John is not the only one,” Steenkamp said. “There are others around the country.”

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