Disabled veterans will be able to get the balances of their federal student loans forgiven more easily under an executive order that President Donald Trump signed Wednesday.
The order directs the departments of Veterans Affairs and Education (DOE) to develop an expedited process to forgive federal student loan debt from veterans who are “totally and permanently disabled,” according to a White House statement.
"Altogether this action will wipe out an average of $30,000 in debt owed by more than 25,000 eligible veterans who have made immense sacrifices — the ultimate sacrifice, in many ways, for our nation,” Trump said at the American Veterans (AMVETS) national convention in Louisville, Kentucky. “And there will be no federal income tax on the forgiven debts."
Veterans currently face an overly complicated and difficult process that prevented many from obtaining the relief they were eligible for.
The White House estimates that approximately 50,000 veterans qualify to have their loans forgiven, but only about half have received that benefit. Since April 2018 over $650 million in student loan relief was given to some 22,000 eligible veterans, according to the DOE.
"My administration will take prompt action to ensure that all totally and permanently disabled veterans are able to obtain, with minimal burden, the federal student loan debt discharges to which they are legally entitled,” Trump said in the order.
The DOE plans to notify more than 25,000 eligible veterans, who will then have 60 days to accept or decline their loan discharge. Even though the president said veterans taking advantage of the loan forgiveness would not have to pay federal taxes, some states may require them to pay state income taxes on the benefit. The agency also acknowledged that accepting this benefit may make it harder for disabled veterans to get future student loans.
"While student loan forgiveness for some disabled veterans has been available for years, DAV [Disabled American Veterans] applauds the actions the president has taken to eliminate the red tape veterans had to navigate prior to this decision,” Stephen “Butch” Whitehead, DAV national commander, said in an email.
Under the already existing process, called Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge, those eligible can request an application by phone (888-303-7818) Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. eastern time, or by email at DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net.