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What to Know About Student Loan Forgiveness and Social Security Disability

April 17, 2017

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By Ashleigh Quinn-Gallagher, Esquire


Did you know that if you have been awarded Social Security disability benefits, you may be eligible to have your federal loans discharged?  It is called a Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (or a “TPD” discharge). 

If you qualify for a TPD discharge, you may be released from your obligation to pay back qualifying federal loans. These loans include:

  • Loans made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program

  • Loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program

  • Loans made under the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program

  • A TEACH Grant, which requires you to complete a service obligation               

What qualifies you for a TPD discharge? There are several ways to qualify:

  • If you are awarded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and any planned disability review will be at least 5-7 years from the date of your most recent SSDI/SSI approval;

  • If you are a veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing that the VA has determined that you have a service-connected disability (or disabilities) that is 100% disabling or that you are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating; or,

  • You can also submit certification from a licensed medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:

    • Can be expected to result in death;

    • Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or

    • Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months 

What do you need to apply for a TPD discharge?

  • If you were awarded disability, you will need your Social Security Administration (SSA) Notice of Award, if it indicates when your next scheduled disability review will occur. If it does not, you can call your local SSA office, or the main number 800.772.1213 and request a Benefits Planning Query. The Benefits Planning Query will show when your next review is scheduled to occur.

  • If you are a veteran, you will need your service connected disability rating determination from the VA or documentation showing that the VA has determined that you are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating

  • For a certification from a physician, you would need to have the physician fully complete Section 4 of the application for a TPD discharge and submit it within 90 days of the date that your physician signed the application.


For more information, to apply for a Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, or to download the application, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website and click on “loan forgiveness” for more information, or visit, which is the TPD website run by the U.S. Department of Education.  




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