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I often get asked if an SSA disability approval will help with student loan financial hardship. In short, the easy answer is yes. Read more to explore 3 primary student loan forgiveness programs that can help with debt relief if you are on disability.
Jump to Section:
- The VA 100% Unemployability Rating
- Social Security Disability
- A Doctor’s Certification
- How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness
1. The VA 100% Unemployability Rating
In August 2021, 27 percent of employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector. In order to receive veteran student loan forgiveness, a 100% rating is required. In fact, it goes even further in that an unemployability rating is needed to get student loan relief based on disability. This is because the VA rates a percentage of disability of each of your conditions than total them to come to an overall service connection.
So, in a practical sense, a person might lose 25% function in each limb to equate to a 100% VA rating. However, the 25% loss of function in each arm and leg might complicate heavy lifting or prolonged standing, but does not necessarily prevent desk jobs that are less impacted by the function loss.
Social Security has adjusted how they view VA disability ratings as a result. So, too, has the student loan forgiveness program based on disability. A 100% unemployability rating is required.
2. Social Security Disability
If you are struggling with student loan debt due to a disability, you may be eligible for loan discharge through Social Security. The Social Security disability discharge program forgives federal student loans based on the severity and the duration of the condition when descending disability claims.
For example, you might have back surgery and are on bed rest. It is clear you cannot work due to the severity, but the duration of that limitation might be limited. This holds true for many conditions such as heart attacks, some strokes, and joint replacements.
In fact, Social Security in some cases provides for a “closed period” of approval, meaning that they recognize a condition was disabling but conclude that it is not anymore. Similarly, in other cases we see judges order a 1-year, 18-month, or 2-year review on the basis that (with medical care) the disability will improve to the point that employment might be possible again.
For this reason, the student loan forgiveness program considers Social Security Disability approval with 5-year or 7-year reviews only. This gives some confidence your disability will be longstanding before discharging your debt.
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3. A Doctor’s Certification
Like the first two options, a doctor’s certification requires specific documentation. To qualify for student loan forgiveness due to disability, a certification from an M.D. or D.O. must state you cannot work due to your disability –either for the previous 60 months or for the next 60 months.
It’s very important to note that physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or chiropractors cannot provide the certification. Proper documentation is crucial for this option in order to qualify for student loan forgiveness.
How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness
👉 To file for student loan discharge based on disability, go to disabilitydischarge.com and select “Application Process.”
👉 Stay up to date on current legislation for the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan. (Note that this plan is separate from disability programs and open to a broad demographic. Contact your loan provider for more details or Click Here to apply).
👉 Forgiveness of your student loan is not guaranteed even if you meet the above criteria. Your case is monitored for a full three years to evaluate if you can go back to work and can resume payment of your loan. Additionally, wage verification has been required in the past to prove you continue to qualify.
👉 Any money written off (forgiven) could become income for that year for tax purposes. Given how high student loan debt can be, keep in mind that your tax liability might be rather sizable. Please consult with a tax preparer.
As a local representative, our disability advocate will know your case from start to finish. We’ll be involved every step of the way, and you’ll speak to the same person every time. Our goal is to make your case the easiest one to approve. For that reason, we don’t just fine-tune what you have and put it together in a cut-and-paste format. We’ll meticulously review your case, provide feedback on the weak areas of your application, and offer clear directions on what information we need and where you can find them.
Whether you’ve already begun the application process or are just getting started, we encourage you to schedule a FREE consultation to help determine the best strategy for your case. Our mission is to eliminate the red tape and mountains of paperwork so you can focus on your health and the things that matter.
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