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Student Loans Permanent Disability Discharge

Disability Benefits
Written by Legal Aid WV


Most people seem to believe that student loans simply never go away, but for people with permanent disabilities, there may be some relief.  People with certain loans and required documentation of total and permanent disability may submit an application to have their loans discharged.

The Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education provides information to the public laying out the requirements and process for a discharge.

What types of loans are eligible for discharge?

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program loans (Direct Loans), Federal Family Education Loan Program loans (FFEL), Federal Perkins Loans, and TEACH Grant service obligations are eligible for total and permanent disability discharges.  Any combination of these loans can be forgiven with a single application. 

What documentation do I need to provide?

  • Veterans can qualify for a total and permanent disability discharge by providing a VA disability determination showing either a service-connected disability that is “100% disabling,” or showing total disability based on an individual unemployability rating.
  • Individuals eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can qualify for a discharge by providing a copy of either a Social Security Administration “Notice of Award” or “Benefits Planning Query.” On page 4 of the Notice of Award, under “Things to Remember for the Future,” the review period lists a number of years between reviews.  To qualify for a discharge, your review period must be between 5 to 7 years.
  • All other individuals must have a physician complete section 4 of the application

What else do I need to know?

Nelnet is the servicer on these loans, so they will review the application.  Once you file the application, you will not be required to submit any payments on your loans while your application is being reviewed. Veterans whose total and permanent disability discharge applications are approved will have their payments returned to them dating back to the effective date of the VA’s disability determination. However, individuals sending in SSA documentation will only have payments returned from the date Nelnet received the documentation, and individuals who submit a physician’s certification will only have their payments returned from the date of the certification, so the longer you wait to file, the more you’ll continue to have to pay on your loans.

Approved applicants enter into a three-year post discharge monitoring period, and must complete certain steps or risk having their loans reinstated.

Different cases have different circumstances and complications.  This information is not intended to address every possible situation. This is general legal information.  For more guidance about your particular situation, please contact Legal Aid or talk to a lawyer.

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