WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Angus King (I-Maine) released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will automatically discharge the outstanding student loans for more than 323,000 Americans with a total and permanent disability (TPD). The new regulation will eliminate the requirement of student loan borrowers with a TPD who were matched through Social Security Administration (SSA) data to fill out an application before receiving relief. This change will go into effect with the department’s next quarterly data match with SSA, which will occur in September. In addition, the department will indefinitely stop sending automatic requests for earnings information from SSA-matched borrowers and pursue the elimination of the three-year monitoring period during the negotiated rulemaking in October.
“This announcement from the Department of Education is welcome news for the hundreds of thousands of borrowers with a total and permanent disability who have faced burdens and inequities in receiving student debt relief they are entitled to under law,” said the Senators. “For years, we have urged the department to use their authority to improve the lives of these student loan borrowers and we are grateful to Secretary Cardona for taking action to finally address this vital issue by automating the loan discharge process. We will continue to stay engaged on this matter to ensure eligible borrowers get the help they deserve and look forward to the permanent changes to the monitoring period that the department seeks to make this fall.”
While the Higher Education Act of 1965 allows individuals with a TPD to have their outstanding federal student loans forgiven, these borrowers face significant challenges that are both administratively burdensome and unnecessary in the application and income monitoring process. Unfortunately, this has resulted in hundreds of thousands of eligible borrowers not getting the debt relief they are entitled to.
Since 2016, Sen. Coons has been leading the bipartisan, bicameral effort to fix this issue for Americans. In 2017, his Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, a bill to remove the federal tax penalty for federal student loans that are discharged due to death or total and permanent disability, was passed into law. Sen. Coons led several letters, sent on February 15, 2018, October 9, 2019, December 5, 2019, and most recently on August 05, 2021 to both the Department of Education and its Inspector General about improving and automating the TPD program.