The Obama administration is set to undertake a huge initiative: identifying and forgiving the student loans of almost 400,000 permanently disabled Americans.
As part of President Obama’s Student Aid Bill of Rights, the Department of Education, working with Social Security Administration, announced the new system, which will forgive $7.7 billion in federal student loan debt for 387,000 people who receive disability payments and are unable to work. That includes 179,000 people who are currently defaulting on their loans and run the risk of having their Social Security benefits docked.
Although the law has been in force for quite some time, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said not many people have taken advantage of it. The reasons: the law is relatively unknown and the procedure to apply for loan forgiveness is quite complicated.
"That's not how government should work," Mitchell said in an interview. "These are people who are struggling with health issues. We want to take one worry off their plate."
The Department of Education is now taking up the responsibility to screen eligible borrowers and guide them on how to get their loans discharged. Borrowers who successfully apply for the program will have their disability payments or Social Security protected.
Beginning April 18, the department will start sending out letters to eligible people. The applicants will only need to sign a form and return it, without having to submit documentation of their disability.
Once the debt is ejected, a three-year monitoring period will begin to check whether the applicant’s earning increases over a certain threshold. If this happens, the person might have to start making payments again.
Many disability advocates have shown approval for the “simple, yet powerful” motion to educate people about their rights.
The humanitarian act is a great step forward to improve the economy, especially in light of the $1.2 trillion student debt that will have millennials working till they are 75 years old.