Relief From Federal Student Loans For People Found to Have a Disability

Posted on: August 10, 2021
The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Current as of August 20, 2021

If you have been found totally or permanently disabled you may not have to repay federal student loans. This is called a Total and Permanent Disability or “TPD” Discharge.

The loans it can cover are a Direct Loan, Family Federal Education Loan (FFEL), Perkins Loan, or a complete TEACH Grant service obligation.

In August, 2021, the federal government used this to forgive loans of about 325,000 borrowers.

How Do I Know If I’m Totally and Permanently Disabled?

There are 3 ways to be found totally and permanently disabled for this:

1. Veterans Affairs (VA) Determination

Documentation from the VA showing that you have service-connected disability that is 100% disabling or that you are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating

2. Social Security Administration (SSA) Decision

A notice from Social Security must say your next disability review will be 5 – 7 years from the last SSA disability decision. If you do not have an SSA Notice of Award that says when your next review will be, you can call your local SSA office or 1-800-772-1213 and request the “Benefits Planning Query form 2459,” to see if it sets your review 5-7 years from the last decision.

3. Physician Certification

Your doctor may certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or has lasted or will last for 60 months in a row.

By the end of this 2021, new rules should automatically grant this help if your Veterans Affairs or the Social Security decision qualifies.

How do I apply?

If you have either the with either a VA or SSA disability finding, you don’t have to apply under current rules.  You should receive a notice of your approved discharge starting in September 2021.  By the end of the year, the discharge should be completed.

If you do not have the right type of VA or SSA decision, you can apply by:

  • downloading a copy of the application here,
  • partially filling out the application online here, or
  • request a printed application by phone at 303.7818 or by email at .

You can pick someone to help you in applying.  They must out a Representative Designation Form before helping in the application process.

The complete application and supporting documents can be sent by email to, by fax to (303)696-5250 or by mail to:

U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 87130
Lincoln, NE 68501-7130

Once your application is received, your federal loan holders will be told to suspend collection on your loans while your application is being decided.

Do I Have to Fill Out Paperwork Each Year On My Income After The Discharge Is Granted?

No.  This used to be a requirement. For now the requirement is temporarily stopped. The government plans to permanently stop it by the end of 2021.


These TPD loan discharges are not considered income for federal taxes or Louisiana state taxes.   For more information visit the Nelnet website.

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