July 25, 2021

I’m disabled. Can my student loans be forgiven?

I’m disabled. Can my student loans be forgiven?

Q. I have been totally disabled since 2011 and in 2016 when I turned 65, my disability switched to Social Security retirement benefits. I understand that there is in process student loan forgiveness for the disabled. I am now about to turn 70. Will I qualify for this program and how do I get started?

— Unsure

A. We’re sorry to hear about your health issues.

There may be some financial relief for you.

Federal student loans such as the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans and federal Perkins loans may be eligible for forgiveness in the case where the borrower is totally and permanently disabled, said Steven Gallo, a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.

He said there are three different ways to demonstrate a disability: through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with a Doctor’s Certification or through the Social Security Administration, which Gallo said appears to be your best option.

“Borrowers who qualify for Social Security disability insurance and their award notice shows that they will not be subject to disability review for five or more years will be deemed permanently disabled for the purposes of loan forgiveness,” he said. “Based on your history this certainly seems to be the case.”

The question now is why you have waited so long to apply and how Social Security will look at your case.

Gallo said the only way to find out is to actually apply and let Social Security make the determination.

To do so you may go to DisabilityDischarge.com and print the PDF formatted application or use the interactive online tool provided there, he said. You may also call Nelnet, the service provider that processes the Total and Permanent Discharge applications for the government at (888) 303-7818.

“The process can be cumbersome and based on government data, only 0.5% of borrowers qualify for discharge of their debt but it certainly appears that you have a strong case,” Gallo said.

Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.

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