How To Qualify
There are three ways to qualify for total and permanent disability discharge (TPD):
1. Doctor Certification: A doctor must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medical condition that meets one of the following conditions:
- Can be expected to result in death.
- Has lasted for a continuous period of no less than 60 months.
- Is expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 60 months.
2. Veteran Affairs Certification: The Secretary of Veteran Affairs (VA) must certify that you cannot work because of a service-connected disability or illness.
3. Social Security Benefits: Borrowers may be eligible if they qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Social Security Income (SSI) benefits. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews individuals for SSDI and SSI in different timeframes depending on how severe the disability is. To be eligible for discharge, you must qualify to have your benefits reviewed every 5 to 7 years. This is known as "Medical Improvement Not Expected" or MINE.
What Loans Are Eligible?
All federal Stafford, PLUS, Perkins, and Consolidation loans are eligible. Your loan responsibility if you are a co-signer or endorser on any PLUS or Consolidation loans would be dischargeable as well.
How Do I Apply?
Go to DisabilityDischarge.com to get the discharge form. The site has additional information about how to fill out this form and how the discharge process works.
Once you begin the application process, you will automatically be placed in forbearance for 120 days. During that time, no payments are due. You must complete and submit your application within this 120-day period. If you do not, your loan will automatically go back into repayment, and any interest that accrued during the forbearance will capitalize.
If your doctor is certifying your application, your doctor will have to fill out Section 4 of the form. Once your doctor has filled out Section 4, you must finish submitting the form within 90 days.
If you are a disabled veteran or receive SSA benefits, you can provide a copy of your VA disability paperwork or SSA award instead of the doctor's portion of this form. You still need to fill out the other parts, though.
Be sure you fill the form out carefully and completely, because it cannot be processed if it is not complete.
Once you and/or your doctor have completed the form, submit it to:
U.S. Department of Education
PO Box 87130
Lincoln, NE 68501
No payments are due once it has been confirmed that your application has been received and is being reviewed.
In April 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) began proactively reaching out to borrowers who may be eligible for a TPD discharge. They do this on a quarterly basis. ED works with the SSA to identify borrowers who receive Social Security disability payments and have the designation "Medical Improvement Not Expected."
Because ED certified these borrowers' disability status, they get to bypass the documentation typically needed to prove their eligibility. Instead, they simply sign and return their application to receive this discharge. If a borrower does not send a completed application after 120 days, ED will reach out to them again.
If you qualify by doctor certification or SSA award, you will be placed in a 3-year post-monitoring period after your application is approved. Your loan can be reinstated during this period if you:
- Receive a new federal student loan or TEACH Grant.
- Earn more income than 100% of the federal poverty guideline based on a family of two for your state.
- Don't return any federal student loan or TEACH Grant disbursements made to you after the doctor's certification or submission of your SSA award.
- Receive a notice from SSA saying that you are no longer disabled.
- Receive a notice that your disability review will no longer be every 5 to 7 years. Note: You may apply for TPD discharge through a doctor’s certification if this occurs.
Veteran applicants don't have a post-monitoring period.
For doctor's certification, your loans would be discharged as of the date that the doctor signed the form.
For Veteran Affairs certification, your loans would be discharged as of the date that you incurred the injury or illness that caused your disability. This can even be before your loans were borrowed—meaning it's possible that your entire loan could be discharged and payments that you made could be refunded back to you.
For Social Security benefits, your loans would be discharged as of the date that your application was received.