If you are permanently disabled and therefore unable to pay for your student loans, you might be eligible for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (TPD).
According to the Department of Education's website, you can qualify for a TPD discharge by having a physician certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that can:
(1) be expected to result in death;
(2) has lasted for a continuous period of at least 60 months; or
(3) can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 60 months.
As of August 2021, eligible borrowers identified as totally and permanently disabled with the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should automatically have their federal student loans discharged through a data match. In this case, borrowers won’t need to submit an application before receiving loan discharges.
If you need assistance completing the TPD application, you can designate an individual or organization to complete and submit a TPD discharge application on your behalf, and assist you throughout the process. To designate a representative, you and your representative must complete an Applicant Representative Designation form. This completed form must be processed by Nelnet, the servicer that assists Federal Student Aid with the TPD discharge process. **You must submit this form even if your representative already has a power of attorney to act on your behalf in other matters.
Once you submit your TPD application, it typically takes Nelnet less than 30 days to review the TPD discharge application. In case of a delay, you will be contacted via mail. You won't be required to make any payments on your loan(s) while your discharge application is under review.
If denied, you'll be notified of the denial reason. In some cases, you may provide more information to support your case (must be provided within one year of the denial), or you may reapply.
If approved, you may be subject to a three-year post-discharge monitoring period. This would begin on the date the discharge is approved, and if you don’t meet certain requirements at any time during this monitoring period, your obligation to repay your loan(s) and/or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation will be reinstated.
Following your three-year post-discharge period, you may return to school and apply for new federal student loans. You will have sign a statement acknowledging that you can't get a TPD discharge of the new loan or TEACH Grant based on the disabling condition that already exists, unless that condition were to significantly worsen.
To learn more about applying for a TPD discharge and to obtain a TPD discharge application, visit the TPD Discharge website at disabilitydischarge.com and select "Application Process." You can also contact Nelnet by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 1-888-303-7818.