Student loan Discharge and Forgiveness for Disability

If you're wondering about a Total and Permanent Disability discharge, application process, eligibility and requirements, then we've got it all explained in this article.

Updated by Sharan Kumar on 10th October 2019

In events of unfortunate circumstances where borrowers become completely and permanently disabled, they must reach out to their loan servicer to apply for a discharge of their federal student loans or their Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Service.

If such situations ever happen to you, you must first fill and submit the application for total and permanent disability. Along with this, you have to submit to Nelnet, documentation that meets the requirements of the federal student aid to be considered totally and permanently disabled. Nelnet is the servicer who assists the U.S. Department of Education with the discharge process of the totally and permanently disabled.

The different types of loans that can be relieved through this form of loan discharge are as follows.

  • William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program (Direct Loan)

  • A Federal Family Education Loan program (FFEL)

  • A Federal Perkins Loan

  • TEACH Grant


List of Contents


Eligibility for a TPD discharge

Eligibility for the Disability loan discharge can be confirmed by the submission of documents from any of the sources mentioned below.

The U.S. Department for Veterans affair

For a veteran, you may provide a document from the Veteran affairs to qualify for this discharge. The document must show that your disability is due to one of the following reasons.

  • A service-connected disability causing a 100% disability

  • Totally disability based entirely on your rating of an individual's unemployability

The Social Security Administration

If you are able to prove that you qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you can qualify for a Disability discharge. Although you do need to provide a Social Security Administration Notice of aware or benefits planning query. This must show that your next scheduled disability review will be in about 5-7 years or greater from the last date of your Social Security Disability Determination.

The U.S. Department of education works with the Veteran Affairs and the Social Security Administration to identify and determine those who are eligible for a discharge based on their status. If they receive information from the appropriate corporation stating that you are eligible to qualify for a Disability Discharge, they shall send you a letter notifying you of the same. Along with that, the discharge application will be included.

If you choose to apply for a discharge, all that is required for you to do is to complete and submit the application, without having to provide any additional documentation or whatsoever if you qualify for the discharge.

A certified Physician

You can also become eligible for discharge when you get a physician to certify on the discharge application. The application must state that you are not able to engage in any form of substantially effective activity due to a physical or mental impairment which -

  • Would most probably result in death

  • Has lasted for a minimum period of 60 months without any relief in between

  • Is expected to last for a minimum period of 60 months without relief in between

Substantially effective activity is that activity or level of work that is performed for pay or profit that involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a mixture of both. The Physician who approves your Discharge application must be a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathy/Osteopathic Medicine (DO) who has a license to practice in the United States


Application Process

You are required to complete a Discharge application and send it to Nelnet. Additionally, include any other required documentation that proves your qualification for the discharge.

The Discharge application applies to all of your federal student loans and TEACH Grant service. Nelnet assists the U.S. Department of Education in administering the Discharge process. They would also engage in having discussions with the borrowers and the TEACH Grant recipients on the behalf of the U.S. Department of Education regarding the Discharge requests.

You also have the option to let Nelnet know that you plan on applying to request for a Discharge application by phone or email. If you do this, any required payments to be made by you on your federal student loan will stop for a period of 120 days to give you time to submit your application and any documentation that might be required along with it.

Nelnet contact details -

E-mail - disabilityinformation@nelnet.net

Phone number1-888-303-7818

Monday to Friday - 7 am to 2 am ET

Saturday - 8 am to 7 pm ET

For any additional ways to contact them, you should have a look at the Total and permanent disability discharge page on the federal student aid website.

At the time of application for the Discharge, they will first check to see if your loans are eligible for forgiveness. Finally, they will contact your lender to inform them that your payments must be suspended for a duration of 120 days. During this time you won't be required to make any payments for a duration of 120 days so that you are able to fill out the application and submit it for processing.

If you don't fill and submit the same within this window of 120 days your student loan payments will resume as before.

Once you finish with your application you can mail it to the following address with any supporting documentation that you think might be beneficial for your application process.

U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 87130
Lincoln, NE 68501-7130

What happens after I submit a TPD discharge application?

After receiving your application Nelnet will explain the process in which they will review your application. You shall not be required to make any payments towards your loan during the time your discharge application is on review.

Once Nelnet receives your application it will be reviewed within a period of 30 days. If your application is approved for disability discharge due to social security administration documentation or certification from a Physician, you will be under a 3 year review period that begins from the date that your discharge is finalized and approved. During the review period, all of your income and any sort of changes in your status will be monitored.

If your approval for discharge is based on a Veterans Affairs' determination, you will not have to take part in the 3 year review period.

What happens if my TPD discharge request is denied?

In the instance that your request is denied and declined, your lenders or the one responsible for the TEACH Grant service will be told to continue collecting as per the usual conditions. You will be sent a letter by mail that mentions the denial and the reason behind the rejection of your discharge and this will also include information on what you must do in the instance that you disagree with the decision or have any further queries about the same.

If the U.S. Department of education determines that you are ineligible for the Discharge, Nelnet will perform any of the following actions according to your situation.

1 - Send you a notification of the same.

2 - Explain that you may ask the U.S. Department of education to reevaluate your discharge application provided that you give them new information that may support your eligibility for the discharge within a time period of 12 weeks from the date that you were notified of the denial of your discharge application.

3 - Explain that if you do not request reevaluation of your discharge application within a time frame of 12 months of the date that you are notified of the denial of your discharge application, and you still want to consider asking for a reevaluation from the U.S. Department of education to determine your eligibility, you will need to submit a new discharge application with the new information regarding your disabling condition that was not mentioned with your prior discharge application.

4 - Explain that you are again responsible for the repayment of your loans and that your lender will send you a notification when your first payment becomes due, and

5 - Explain that if you applied for the discharge of a TEACH Grant service, you are again at the responsibility of meeting the terms and conditions for the service.

What happens if my TPD discharge request is approved?

After your Discharge request goes through, any further action is based on the type of documentation that you had submitted during your application for qualifying for the discharge.

Veterans Affair Documentation

Here if the U.S. Department of education determines that you have become totally and permanently disabled on the basis of the documentation that is submitted from the veteran affairs, Nelnet will send you a notice that says that your loans and/or TEACH grant service has been discharged and notify your loan lenders to return any loan payments received during the time period which is after the date of determination of disability back to the person that made the payments.

Social Security Administration or Physician's certification

Here if it is determined that you are completely and permanently disabled on the basis of your social security administration documentation or physician's certification,

Nelnet will -

  • Send you a notice that mentions your loans and/or your TEACH grant Service being discharged.

  • Also, instruct your lenders to return any payments which were made after the date that Nelnet received the Social security documentation or the date that the physician certified your discharge application to the person who had made the payments.
  • Also, send you a notice that you will be subjected to a 3 year post-discharge monitoring time period which beings on the date the discharge was approved.

  • Explain to you that your obligation to repay these loans or to complete your TEACH grant service can be reinstated if you fail to meet certain criteria at any time through the monitoring time period.


Applicant Representative Designation

If you need assistance in filling the application form, it is possible for you to assign an individual or an organization to fill, complete and submit your discharge application on your behalf. They may also help you throughout the discharge process.

To assign a representative, you and your representative must fill and make an Applicant Representative Designation form.

Nelnet must get this form and process it before working with the said representative.

You are also required to submit the said form even if your representative already has a power of attorney to let him act on your behalf over any other matter.


Post-discharge monitoring period requirements

Your requirements to repay your loan or to complete your TEACH grant service can be reinstated at any point in time during the 3-year post discharge duration of the monitoring time period if you meet the following reasons.

  • You have annual earnings through employment which is greater than the poverty guideline amount for a family consisting of two in your respective state and this is without regard for the actual family size that you have.

  • You take a new federal student loan under the Direct Loan program or a new TEACH Grant.

  • Any new disbursement of your loan, after your discharge, has not been returned to the lender or (for a TEACH grant) to the U.S. Department of education within a time period of 120 days of the disbursement date

  • A notification from the Social Security Administration that states that you are no longer considered disabled or that your next scheduled disability review will not be in 5 to 7 years from the date of the last Social security administration disability determination

Notes -

For the duration of the post-discharge monitoring period, Nelnet will need you to submit documentation that consists of your annual earnings from your employment on the form that is provided by Nelnet. If this form is not submitted with the required information, the repayment of your loan and the necessity to complete your TEACH grant service will be reinstated.

The poverty guidelines and the amounts for the same are updated every year by the department of health and human services. Nelnet will send you a notification regarding the same and the current poverty guidelines and update amounts during the years following the post-discharge monitoring time period.

If you are a veteran that was discharged of his loans through the approval based on your veteran affairs documentation you won't be subject to the post-discharge monitoring time period.

What happens if my obligation to repay my loans or satisfy my TEACH Grant service obligation is reinstated?

As before it will become your responsibility to repay your loans in the manner that is mentioned in the terms of the promissory note that you have signed, or in the manner of keeping with the terms of your TEACH Grant service that you completed.

If you had any loans that you had applied for a discharge, they will be returned to the status they were in before they were discharged. For example, if you had a loan in default prior to application for discharge, it will be returned to the state it was before, that is, defaulted loan.

If you are reinstated, your responsibility to repay your loans or your TEACH Grant will be handed back to you. Nelnet will notify you of the reason behind the reinstatement and also give you information regarding the same. If you have any questions about the reinstatement or if you think the reinstatement was based on invalid or information that was not correct Nelnet will give you instructions on how you can approach the situation.


Joining schools post TPD Discharge

If you received a TPD discharge but want to go back to school, you can take out more student loans or TEACH Grants under some conditions. If you received a Disability discharge based on a Veterans documentation, Social security administration documentation or a physician's certification, you must fulfill the following conditions.

1- Submit to your school a letter from the physician that states that you are now again able to engage in a substantially effective activity.

2 - Sign off on a statement that is acknowledging that you can't get a Disability discharge on the new loan or the TEACH grant based on a disabling condition that already is existing during the period that you received the new loan or TEACH grant unless it is a condition that deteriorates substantially sometime in the future.

3 - If the discharge was based on a Social Security Administration or a physicians certification and your 3-year post-discharge period is still in effect, you will be required to resume payments on your previous loan which was discharged or acknowledge that you are again under the responsibility to fulfill and meet the requirements of your TEACH grant service.


Taxes on TPD Discharged Loans

Since there was a change n the federal law concerning the taxability of the loan amounts that are discharged due to the Disability discharge, the answer to this will depend on the time period during which you received the discharge.

  • If you received the discharge of the loan before the date 1st of Jan, 2018, the loan amount can be considered as income for a federal taxation purpose under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.

  • If you received a Disability discharge on a loan during the period between the dates 1st of Jan,2018 and 31st of Dec,2025, the discharged loan amount cannot be considered as income for the federal taxation purpose.

For the purpose of determining whether a loan amount discharged due to the disability discharge may be treated as income that is taxable is different based on the nature of your qualification for the discharge.

Veteran Affairs

If you are a veteran who proved that you are already Completely and permanently disabled based on the disability determination by the veteran affairs, you are considered to have received the discharge on the date that the U.S. Department of education approved the discharge.

Social Security Administration and Physician's Certification

If you proved that you are completely and permanently disabled on the basis of documentation from the Social Security Administration or a physician's certification (which means that you are subject to a 3 year post-discharge monitoring period) you will be considered to have received the discharge for federal taxation purposes at the end of the monitoring period.

For Example, if your loan was successfully discharged in the month of July in the year 2017, you would not be considered to have received the discharged until the month of July in the year 2020, which is at the end of the 3 years post-discharge monitoring time period.

Hence, the IRS would not be able to consider the discharged loan amount to be any form of taxable income for the federal taxation purpose.

Any loan amounts that are discharged due to the disability discharge may still be considered income for state tax purposes. If you have received a Disability Discharge on a federal student loan, it might be wise to consult with your state tax office or a tax professional before you proceed with filing your state tax return.

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FAQ's

  What happens to my student loans if I become disabled?


Federal student loans do not transfer to another person if you die. Your relatives can notify the loan servicer, and the loans will be canceled. In the case of total and permanent disability of the student borrower, federal student loans can often be discharged.

  What happens to my student loan debt if I die?


According to the U.S. Department of Education, if the borrower of a federal student loan dies, the loan is automatically canceled and the debt is discharged by the government.

  Can I go to jail for not paying student loans?


You cannot go to jail or be arrested for not paying your student loans. Failing to pay a student loan, credit card, or hospital bill are considered "civil debts" and you cannot be arrested for not paying your student loans or civil debts.

  Do you inherit your spouse's student loan debt?


If your spouse didn't cosign your loan, then they're not legally responsible for your student loans. If you take out student loans during your marriage and live in a community property state, your spouse could be liable for your debt.