LANSING, Mich. – A disabled veteran is in the fight of his life as the country he fought to serve and protect is fighting him for a massive sum of money.
William Milzarski, 46, is a highly decorated, disabled Michigan Army veteran, but now he's being forced to take on a new battle. The IRS has left him with a financial burden he struggles to carry.
Many college graduates know the crushing weight of college debt. Milzarski said he succeeded in getting his debt canceled, but the IRS still has its hand out.
Milzarski served three years as an engineer during the first Gulf War before he left the military, finished law school and became a top state of Michigan disability advocate.
At age 39, with his sons looking to join the Army, he hit a crossroads.
"I was arguing, 'Should I buy a convertible or go back in the Army?'" Milzarski said.
He became an officer and a platoon leader hunting the Taliban in Afghanistan on nearly 250 missions. Five of his men died, and he said he nearly did, too.
"A small grenade launcher and one of these went off in front of me, and I remember falling back into a wall, and it detonated and I don't -- everything from that time on becomes very foggy," Milzarski said.
Milzarski suffered a traumatic brain injury and quickly realized it was time to retire.
"I needed to retire because of medical issues," Milzarski said.
His college debt, though, deferred while on active duty, ballooned with interest to more than $250,000. He successfully figured out how to get it dismissed, but the IRS hasn't stopped calling.
"The IRS turns around, 'We're going to tax you on that forgiveness because that's what the code says,'" Milzarski said.
He got a bill this summer for nearly $62,000 in taxes due, and even after trying to get an offer in compromise -- a reduced tax debt -- the IRS is unrelenting.
"It's going to be devastating to our quality of life," Milzarski said.
The Purple Heart recipient is helping raise his grandchildren at home on Social Security disability and some Veterans Affairs benefits.
The IRS bill will account for a crushing third of his income, he said.
Milzarski said he doesn't blame the IRS. He's just hoping for a break, knowing he might never be able to afford to pay off his tax bill.