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En español | Veterans with severe disabilities who have outstanding student loans will receive notices from the federal government beginning this month telling them they may be eligible for a program that can make those debts go away.
"Under the new process, the federal government will notify potentially eligible borrowers about the benefit and guide them through steps needed to discharge their loans, helping thousands of veterans,” says Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, a nonprofit advocacy group.
To spread the word about this loan forgiveness program, the departments of Veterans Affairs and Education are going all out to identify potentially eligible veterans and send them applications. Veterans who successfully meet the definition of having “a total and permanent disability” may get their student loans forgiven.
The loan forgiveness program isn’t new. But since it has never been widely publicized, many disabled veterans continue to struggle to pay back their student loans — or they default on them. What’s different now is that the federal government has a new, proactive way to identify and reach out to the veterans who may quality. Wofford knows from experience how difficult it is to bring federal agencies together, especially when they need to share data. “They tend to work in silos,” says Wofford, “and it’s very difficult to get them to exchange information with one another.”
History suggests that a significant number of veterans could benefit from this interdepartmental cooperation and outreach. In 2016, when the Education Department partnered with the Social Security Administration in an attempt to find permanently disabled vets with student loans, they identified 387,000, and 179,000 had already defaulted on their loans. But since the Education Department and Social Security had no access to the Veterans Affairs databases, they couldn’t find disabled veterans who got benefits through the VA.