Did you know that active-duty Army members are eligible for up to $65,000 in student loan repayment assistance? That’s not the only option for veterans, however, when it comes to student loan debt forgiveness. You don’t have to be a wounded soldier or even an active-duty member of the military to take advantage of these types of programs.
In short, student loan debt forgiveness for veterans is a situation in which federal loans are partially or fully canceled, meaning that you won’t have to pay back the loan balance (something that our co-founder Andrew wish he’d had known well before he did; he paid off thousands in loans before realizing that through Navient, his loan provider, he could receive a full and total discharge of his federal loans).
If you fall into the same boat, here’s how to erase private student loan debt as a veteran of the United States military.
What to Know About Private Loans
Unfortunately, the federal government has less control over private student loans. This means that loan forgiveness programs for veterans are more focused on Federal Perkins Loans and Direct Subsidized Loans.
If you’re a veteran with private student loans, bankruptcy tends to be one of the most suggested methods to cancel your student debt. We’d never recommend bankruptcy to anybody, especially not to veterans who served their country. Instead, if you have private student loans, it’s best to reach out to your provider. Ask if they offer any veteran or service member forgiveness programs.
Alternatively, some lenders will automatically forgive a private loan if the lender gets federal disability forgiveness. Ask them about this! And, be sure that you’ve read the loan contract carefully to understand the terms, conditions, benefits, rates, fees, and penalties of the private loan.
What about veterans with federal loans? You’re in luck! There’s a program for disabled veterans that allows you to get rid of 100% of your federal loans. Here’s what to know.
What is Total and Permanent Disability Discharge?
Also referred to as TPD, this initiative was signed into law by former President Trump in 2019. Officially, it declares that “veterans will now have their student loan debt discharged unless they decide to opt-out of the process. The Department anticipates notifying more than 25,000 eligible veterans and continuing the discharge process on a quarterly basis.”
However, this type of discharge implies that you have a service-related disability. The Department of Veterans Affairs has to formally document the disability. And, keep in mind that it must say that you're already considered permanently disabled.
If you meet those requirements, you’re eligible to have your federal loans completely paid off (note that this doesn’t include private loans, so if you have private loans, those won’t qualify, unfortunately).
What Are the Requirements to Get a TPD as a Veteran?
The main requirement for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge of your student loans is that you’re able to prove that you are permanently disabled.
How do you prove that? We’ll go into the process below, but basically, you have to prove that you are totally and permanently disabled in a document that you’ll send to Nelnet, Navient, or your student loan servicer, as they’ll be in charge of processing the request.
It’s best to speak with your student loan servicer first. Ask them what kinds of documents they need from you regarding your specific case. However, you can also contact your local Veterans Affairs office. Ask them to help provide you with the right documents.
For easy access, here is a link to Navient’s student loan forgiveness options for veterans and a link here for Nelnet’s student loan forgiveness options for veterans. You can also search for “student loan forgiveness options for veterans" online. Be sure to include your loan provider’s name. That will help you find more accurate information, too.
Our co-founder was able to get his loans canceled by contacting the following person at Navient (but remember, you’ll need to find the relevant person within the military benefits department at your specific loan servicer):
How Can I Request a TPD Discharge?
You’ll first need to head to the Disability Discharge website, where you’ll begin the application process. After completing the application, you’ll send it to Navient, Nelnet, or whoever your provider is.
Just go to the corresponding website of TPD Discharge and enter where it says application process. After completing it, send it along with all the documents requested to your student loan servicer. Another option would be to call or email Nelnet.
If they approve your cancellation request, your loan provider will contact you to notify you that your loans have been canceled. Furthermore, if you had already paid off part of that loan, they’ll be required to repay the payment they received during or after you established VA disability.
The National Defense Student Loan Discharge
If you aren’t a disabled veteran, we suggest looking at the option of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or National Defense Student Loan Discharge. The latter is one of the easier programs to qualify for.
To qualify, you’ll need to have taken out a National Defense Student Loan or a Federal Perkins Loan. And, you must also have completed at least one year of service in one of the US’s military branches. The only catch is that that you have to have spent that year deployed to a “hostile fire or imminent danger pay area.”
If your service ended before August 14, 2008, you could qualify for up to 50% loan forgiveness. If your service began on that date or later, you could qualify for up to 100% loan forgiveness.
Moving Past Student Debt
It’s unfortunate that you put your life on the line only to struggle with student debt at home. We’re here to help alleviate those financial woes. First, we'll help find ways for you to benefit from student loan debt forgiveness as a veteran.
If you have issues with any of the above steps, drop a comment below. Or, reach out to us via email. We’d be more than happy to help direct you to the right resources.
Then, download the Wealth Stack app for free on the App Store or on Google Play. There, you can start learning through our helpful (and free) video courses. We've even got a special section on Veteran Finances!