If you are not able to work due to a disability or ongoing medical condition, you may be able to have your federal student loan debt canceled or forgiven through the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) program. You do not have to be receiving Social Security Disability benefits in order to qualify for loan forgiveness.
Am I Eligible for TPD?
There are a few ways you can qualify for TPD, but the easiest way is to have a medical professional fill out the TPD form confirming your disability.
Here are the ways you can qualify for TPD:
- A medical professional completes the TPD form certifying you are unable to engage in any substantial work activity because of a physical or mental impairment that:
- is expected to result in death;
- has lasted for at least 60 months (5 years); or
- is expected to last for 60 months (5 years).
- You are a veteran with a 100% service-connected disability.
- You receive Social Security Disability benefits, and your review period is not for another 5-7 years.
- You receive social Social Security Disability benefits, and your medical review is within 3, and your medical review in the 3-year category has been renewed at least once
- You have a disability onset date at least five years prior to receiving your disability benefits.
- You qualify for the SSA compassionate allowance program.
- You are receiving SSA retirement benefits, but you were in one of the SSA disability categories discussed above before you were switched to retirement benefits.
How Do I Apply for TPD?
It can be very difficult to prove that your Social Security Disability review is not for another 5-7 years or within 3 years, so even if you receive Social Security Disability benefits, it may be easier to apply using the medical professional certification. Medical professionals that can fill out the TPD form include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and licensed psychologists.
The TPD application is very easy to fill out and submit. If you apply for TPD, you may be able to stop any collections while you wait for the Department of Education to review your application.
In some cases, you won’t have to apply at all. The Department of Education regularly receives information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Social Security Administration (SSA) about borrowers with eligible disabilities under the first two categories. You may receive a letter at some point in the future letting you know that the Department thinks you are eligible for a TPD discharge based on the information it has from the VA or SSA. The Department of Education may then automatically cancel your loans under the TPD program without you having to apply.
Where Do I Send My Paper Application?
If you fill out the paper application you can send it to the Department of Education’s TPD loan servicer, NelNet, to review. You can send it via mail, fax, email, or by uploading it online on the TPD website.
U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 87130
Lincoln, NE 68501-7130
Submit your application and supporting documentation to them on their website: https://secure.disabilitydischarge.com
What Happens After I Apply?
Once you apply, NelNet will review the TPD discharge application that you submit along with any supporting documentation, to ensure that the application is complete. NelNet will let you know if your application has been approved. If you were approved, you will get a letter confirming that your loans have been discharged and you no longer owe anything on your federal student loans.
Note: There is no longer a post-discharge income monitoring period for TPD student loan cancellation and discharges. This means that if your loans are approved for a TPD discharge, you will not have to pay on those loans again if you fail to recertify your income, and you will not have to submit any additional information to the Department of Education after your loans are discharged. However, you could face reinstatement if you apply for additional financial aid within three years after receiving a TPD discharge.
If your application has been denied, you may be able to ask NelNet or the FSA Ombudsman to review your application, as it is possible a mistake was made.
Can I Apply Again If I Was Denied the First Time?
Yes. You can reapply if you were denied TPD the first time, but make sure you understand why you were denied, so you can fix any mistakes, technical errors or get more evidence of your disability. If your application was denied due to a minor technical problem, you should also ask NelNet if you can correct the problem without having to reapply.
For more information, see the official website for the TPD program at www.disabilitydischarge.com.
Need more help?
Visit www.disabilitydischarge.com for more information on the Total & Permanent Disability (TPD) program. This website is run by the Department of Education and includes information about applying for TPD as well as the online application and paper forms.