Some disabled veterans are eligible to have their student loans wiped out, but many may not know it, two senators say.
Federal law says that veterans who are "totally and permanently" disabled are entitled to have their student loans erased.
"However, as currently administered, many veterans who qualify for this student loan relief are not receiving it," Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., said in their announcement of a new bill that is intended to help those eligible veterans.
Last year, the Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs announced they would work together to find 100-percent disabled veterans or veterans who are "individually unemployable" because of their service, and alert them that their federal student loans could be forgiven.
But this spring, the Department of Education reported that of the more than 40,000 veterans identified to have their loans erased, fewer than half submitted "required paperwork" and are still in debt.
"Many of these individuals are still currently in default on their loans, which has had dire financial repercussions for them and their families," Isakson and Reed's statement says.
The new bill would "automatically discharge the loans for eligible veterans" and would require the VA and Department of Education to, at least twice each year, identify eligible veterans and make sure no one falls through the cracks.
The legislation already is supported by veteran service organizations including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), High Ground Advocacy, Student Veterans of America, the Retired Enlisted Association, Veterans Education Success and the U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association, according to Reed and Isakson.
Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn., is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House.
“Veterans who have become disabled during their service to our nation should have their student loans forgiven without delay and without cumbersome red tape,” said Reed, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Our bill will require the Department of Education to automatically discharge student loans for eligible individuals and help to ensure that no veteran falls through the cracks due to a clerical error."
“This is a commonsense way to make it easier for totally and permanently disabled veterans to receive the student loan relief they deserve, and I hope that we’re able to act quickly on it,” said Isakson, a member of the panel that oversees federal education issues and chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.