Almost 42,000 disabled veterans are qualified to have their federal student loan debt dismissed, but approximately 18 percent have applied for the forgiveness program, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.
In addition, nearly 25,000 disabled veterans have already defaulted their student loans, according to the Military Times.
The program, called the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (TPD), benefits veterans who have a permanent service-related disability or who get disability aid. TPD also applies to federal student loans that disabled veterans take out for their children in college.
In spring 2018, the U.S. Education and Veterans Affairs Department began a data sharing initiative to evaluate the VA’s records of veterans with a permanent service-related disability with the U.S. Department of Education’s student loan database.
When there’s a match between both data records, the department mails the disabled vet a shortened TPD application. As of October 2018, around 42,000 veterans were notified and 7,700 had their loans dismissed, Department of Education records showed.
“These people can’t work. They’re 100 percent disabled. Of course they’re going to have problems paying back student loans,” Mike Saunders, director of military and consumer policy at the Veterans Education Success told the Military Times. “It’s up to the administration to take proactive action to go out and help these people. To that end, we believe that automatic forgiveness should be something that the administration should be considering.”
Several veterans service organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America and VES have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in November stating that “it’s not fair” to ask disabled veterans to fill out paperwork for the loan forgiveness program, especially if those disabilities “will interfere with their ability to complete the paperwork.”
Department officials responded to the letter stating that they’ve made it easier for veterans to fill out the applications. Officials also note that for disabled veterans that do have jobs, having their loans dismissed through TPD could make it harder for them to be eligible and receive federal student loans in the future.
Any disabled veteran who believes they may be eligible for the loan forgiveness program should contact their federal loan service provider or apply online. If the disabled vet is in the VA’s database, the U.S. Department of Education will fast-track their application, according to department officials.