The Department of Education is taking steps to forgive the student loan debt of military veterans.
The Department of Education announced it will begin working with the Department of Veteran Affairs to locate disabled veterans with outstanding student loans. These borrowers will be notified by mail that they may be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
Though a program exists that will discharge outstanding student loan debt for individuals with certain disabilities, it is not widely known about. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a statement saying that it is important to identify disabled veterans who may be eligible for loan forgiveness. She said it is “…a small but critical way we can show our gratitude for veterans’ service.”
Carrie Wofford, president of the nonprofit Veterans Education Success, agreed that this outreach is much needed. Many disabled veterans who are struggling financially are unaware that they could qualify for loan forgiveness, she told CNBC.
The Department of Education found 387,000 disabled borrowers who were eligible for discharge in 2016. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimated that there may be “tens of thousands” of disabled veterans who are unaware that they qualify for loan forgiveness.
And the recently passed tax bill will benefit disabled veterans who receive loan forgiveness, CNBC reported. Due to a provision in the new tax law, veterans won’t be taxed on their discharged debt.
Previously, the IRS considered any discharged debt to be a form of taxable income. For instance, in 2017, a disabled veteran had $223,000 in student loan debt forgiven only to receive a $62,000 tax bill from the IRS. This led to a lot of criticism from student loan activists who argued that the government was taking advantage of borrowers.
Qualifying veterans will receive a total and permanent disability discharge application in the mail. Veterans will need to fill out the paperwork and return it to be approved for loan forgiveness.
Wofford stressed that this application process could be difficult for veterans with certain mental disabilities. "It would be nice if the letter just said: 'You are no longer responsible for your loans. Thank you for your service,'" she told CNBC.
But acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie praised this move by the Department of Education and Secretary DeVos. Wilkie stated, “The hard work put into this important initiative by two large federal agencies for our veterans and their families is impressive in scope and further underscores VA’s values.”
To find out more about the total and permanent disability discharge and the application, go to DisabilityDischarge.com. You can also read more to find out about other forms of student loan forgiveness.