Statement: The Education Department must automatically cancel debt for borrowers eligible for disability discharges


CONTACT: Alexis Goldstein at

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of Education announced it is temporarily waiving paperwork requirements for borrowers who receive total and permanent disability discharges. It will also be cancelling 41,000 federal student loans for borrowers whose disability discharges were revoked due to failure to provide earnings paperwork during the pandemic.

The Department of Education uses data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify borrowers eligible for Total and Permanent Disability Discharges (TPD), and then notify them of their eligibility. However, the application process creates a hurdle that leads to over 60% of eligible borrowers not receiving the relief they’re owed. 

The following is a statement of Alexis Goldstein, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for Financial Reform:

The Department of Education’s actions today halt harms to borrowers that should never have happened. The Department must act next to affirmatively improve borrowers’ realities. The Trump administration, through executive action, made Total and Permanent Disability discharges automatically available to eligible veterans unless they opted-out. The Biden Administration must similarly act to make TPD discharges automatic for the estimated 400,000 borrowers eligible for relief who have not yet received it. 

Since 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have urged the Department to immediately discharge outstanding federal student loans for all totally and permanently disabled Americans. The Department must act immediately to automatically cancel these loans, rather than continuing past failed policies of requiring borrowers to jump through unnecessary hoops to obtain the relief they’re owed by law. 

We continue to look forward to the Department continuing to use all its legal authorities to provide relief, including by cancelling federal student debt through executive action.