More than half a million student loan borrowers may be entitled to have their student debt written off under federal law, but the US Department of Education has not acted.
The National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN) obtained data through a Freedom of Information Act request that the Department has identified more than 517,000 borrowers who are eligible to have more than $ 8 billion written off. in student loans under the Discharge for total and permanent disability (TPD) Program. The TPD Discharge program enables student loan borrowers who are unable to maintain substantial and gainful employment due to a physical or psychological medical impairment to obtain full forgiveness of their federal student loans.
However, to obtain student loan forgiveness under the TPD Discharge program, disabled student loan borrowers must submit a formal application. The application process can be challenging, especially for borrowers with severe physical or psychological impairments that interfere with their ability to perform routine tasks. The Department of Education has the authority to automatically grant a TPD forgiveness to disabled student loan borrowers who receive Social Security disability benefits, if they have a disability review period of at least five to seven years. The Social Security Administration has identified hundreds of thousands of disabled student loan borrowers who would qualify for relief from the program, and the agency has shared that information with the Department of Education. But the Department has not acted. Many borrowers may not even realize they qualify.
“The Department has made the TPD discharge process unnecessarily cumbersome for borrowers with disabilities,” said Alex Elson, vice president of NSLDN. “They know who these borrowers are, they know they are entitled to relief, and there is simply no good reason they cannot provide it now.”
In April, student loan borrower advocacy organizations submitted a formal rulemaking petition to the Department of Education to pressure the Department to simplify the TPD cancellation program. The organizations included a letter urging the Department to act.
“The Department’s bureaucracy is preventing hundreds of thousands of borrowers with disabilities from receiving the relief to which they are entitled under the law,” said the letter from advocates for student, consumer and disabled rights.
The Biden administration has taken some steps to address the troublesome TPD download program. Earlier this year, the administration announced that it was easing the bureaucratic requirements for the TPD discharge program by temporarily waiving post-discharge monitoring periods during the COVID-19 pandemic. And last month, the Department of Education announced the beginning of a long negotiated rule-making process to review and possibly reform major federal student loan programs, including the TPD forgiveness program, as well as other programs such as repayment. based on income and utility loan forgiveness. .
Meanwhile, the administration is conducting a legal review to determine whether Biden has the authority to go further and pay off student loan debt on a large scale through executive action. The results of that review could be published in the coming months.
Biden Administration Announces Major Overhaul of Income-Based Payment and Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
Will Biden pay off student loan debt? We may know soon
Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Review: Should You Take Action Now To Pay Off Student Debt Later?
If Biden doesn’t pay off student loan debt, could he do it instead?