July 11, 2021

What Disabilities Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?


You may qualify for student loan forgiveness through a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge if you are totally and/or permanently disabled. TPD is a condition that leaves you unable to work and earn a living. In March 2021, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona canceled the student debt of over 41,000 students who met TPD requirements.

Cardona also removed paperwork requirements for qualifying individuals to make the student loan process easier amid the ongoing pandemic. He stated that borrowers with TPD must focus on their wellbeing and not worry about submitting earnings information. This waiver may relieve over 230,000 borrowers with qualifying disabilities.

The disabilities that may qualify you for student loan forgiveness through TPD discharge depend on the conditions that specific institutions set. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, and physicians determine if your disability is total and/or permanent. See the following sections to learn how to apply for TPD confirmation in each establishment.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

You can get a TPD qualification through VA documentation. The VA will determine if you are totally or permanently disabled if you have suffered a service-connected disability or pass the VA’s individual unemployability rating.

If you are disabled due to your service in the military, the VA can provide documentation to the Department of Education (DOE) to waive your student loans. You may contact the VA to forward your disability information to the DOE if the DOE has not contacted you regarding TPD discharge.

The Social Security Administration (SSA)

You can get a TPD qualification if you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The DOE will contact you about TPD discharge if your next disability review schedule is within five or seven years from your most recent SSA disability determination.

Per Cardona’s paperwork waiver, you do not have to submit documentation yourself if the SSA determines you have a TPD. You may contact the DOE if they did not contact you first about TPD discharge despite you receiving SSDI or SSI benefits.

The SSA’s definition of disability follows the law’s definition, which is the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) or work due to physical or mental impairments. These impairments must have lasted for at least 12 months to count as TPD.

A Physician

A physician may certify that you cannot work due to physical or mental impairment. The physician must certify that you are totally and permanently disabled due to a condition that meets the following criteria:

  1. Your physician expects your physical or mental impairment to result in death.
  2. Your condition has continuously lasted for at least 60 months.
  3. Your physician expects your condition to last for a continuous period of over 60 months.

You can contact your physician to forward their certification of your TPD to the DOE if you have not yet received your TPD discharge.

What Student Loans Qualify for TPD Discharge?

Your TPD discharge can relieve you from paying student loans from the following programs:

  • William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program
  • Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program
  • Federal Perkins Loan Program

Conclusion: What Disabilities Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?

You may qualify for student loan forgiveness if you suffer from a total and permanent disability. The VA, SSA, and a licensed physician can determine if your condition counts as a TPD. Generally, a TPD entails that you suffer from a physical or mental condition that prevents you from achieving the level of work a person without a disability can.

The VA, SSA, or your physician should coordinate with the DOE regarding your TPD case. You do not have to provide documents to prove your disabled status. If you believe you qualify for TPD discharge but have not yet gotten a call from the DOE, you may contact either of the three institutions to certify that you have a TPD.

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