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51 attorneys general ask for automatic cancellation of student debt for disabled veterans

A Female and a Male Soldier Saluting the Flag  With Them a Silhouette Over the Blue FieldFifty-one attorneys general are urging the U.S. Department of Education to forgive the student loans of veterans who are permanently disabled due to their military service. The bipartisan coalition issued a letter Friday.   

Last year, the department identified more than 42,000 veterans as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total disability, the attorney's generals said in their letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. About 9,000 of those veterans applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018. However, more than 25,000 have defaulted on their student.  

The letter calls on the department to develop a process to automatically discharge the student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible for it. While the automatic discharge process is underway, the letter proposes the department should stop debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans, and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to protect our country and we have a duty to protect them in return,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

Under federal law, the department is required to discharge the federal student loans of veterans determined by the VA to be unemployable – totally and permanently disabled – due to a service-connected condition. Although the department currently requires disabled veterans to take steps to apply for a loan discharge, those steps aren’t required by law.  

The attorney's general said that the federal government has taken some steps to make it easier for eligible veterans to secure student loan relief. According to their letter, however, an automatic discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt-out for personal reasons “would eliminate unnecessary paperwork burdens and ensure that all eligible disabled veterans can receive a discharge.” 

“Proposals for automatic discharges with opt-out rights have bipartisan support in Congress and among leading veterans’ advocacy organizations,” the letter said. The veterans’ groups supporting the proposal are: Vietnam Veterans for America, Veterans Education Success, The Retired Enlisted Association, High Ground Advocacy, and Ivy League Veterans Council. 

The attorneys general urge the department to “take action to better protect those who once protected the nation. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”


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