NEW YORK – If 52 Attorneys General have their way, the Department of Education would automatically forgive all student loan debt for veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connectiion with their military service.
Attorney General Letitia James joined a group of 51 Attorneys General in urging the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to automatically forgive the student loans of such veterans. The bipartisan coalition issued its letter as the country prepares to honor fallen troops on Memorial Day.
Last year, DOE identified more than 42,000 veterans as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability, the Attorneys General note in their letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, however, more than 25,000 had student loans in default.
The letter calls on DOE to develop a process to automatically discharge the student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible for such relief. While the automatic discharge process is in development, the letter proposes DOE should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans, and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans.
“Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country and we have a duty to protect them in return,” James said. “On Memorial Day, as we honor the lives of all those we lost, we can also honor the service of those still with us by providing them with this financial relief. I strongly urge DOE to discharge these student loans and support the brave men and women who supported us.”
Under federal law, DOE is required to discharge the federal student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be unemployable (or totally and permanently disabled) due to a service-connected condition. Although DOE currently requires disabled veterans to take affirmative steps to apply for a loan discharge, those steps are not required by law.
The Attorneys General note that the federal government has taken some steps to make it easier for eligible veterans to secure student loan relief. According to their letter, however, an automatic discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt out for personal reasons “would eliminate unnecessary paperwork burdens and ensure that all eligible disabled veterans can receive a discharge.”