Question: “I have over $80,000 in loan debt from getting my bachelors and masters. I am now disabled and unable to access my degree. My current loans are on hold, but I currently have no income due to unemployment Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Answer: Student loans help work out ideally, which, in turn, leads to increased income for paying upfront. Disability due to illness or accident makes it impossible to work. Here’s what the professionals tell you, and people in a similar situation as you, might want to consider helping ease the burden of student loan debt, from loan forgiveness to changing your repayment structure.
Financial gurus agree that in your case, there are two main variables: what your loan type is (federal or private) and how severe your disability is (permanent or temporary). “Being unable to use your degree and being unable to work again are two different issues,” says financial and debt resolution attorney Leslie Tyne, founder and managing director of Tyne Law Group. Either way, take action. With student loan repayments resuming in May 2022, there is some urgency going on. “You can’t wait for the government to act and expect you to be a part of the group where they take off loans,” she says.
If you are unable to work long hours, you may qualify for federal student loan forgiveness through total and permanent disability discharge (TPD). This program gives you relief from paying off Federal Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program Loans, and/or Federal Perkins Loans or meeting TEACH Grant service obligations. According to financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, author of several books including “How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid,” TPD discharge has some complexity, including how to apply and qualify for it. Eligibility requires proof that you are completely and permanently disabled, and this can come through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Social Security Administration (SSA) or a doctor’s certification. Eligibility requirements include whether the disability has lasted for five years or will last for five years or will eventually lead to death.
But a heads up: Discharge approval isn’t the end of the story. “There is likely a three-year post-vacation monitoring period during which earned income for a family of two must be below 100% of the poverty line,” Kantrowitz says.
Some good news: The Biden administration has “made it easier for borrowers with disabilities,” says Andrew Pentis, loan specialist and certified student loan counselor at Student LoanHero. In August, more than 323,000 student loan borrowers with total and permanent disability had their loans canceled, providing $5.8 million in relief. The change applies to borrowers identified through matching their SSA data.
If you don’t meet the requirements to be eligible for TPD, consider enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan that allows you to set your monthly federal student loan payments at the amount you’d like to earn. Can be afforded on the basis of income. This will keep your monthly payment at $0 until you have no income. “It will give you a kind of temporary relief to make sure your loans stay current,” Pentis says. “You escape guilt and all its negative effects.” student aid.gov Gives an in-depth look at loan forgiveness and discharge programs.
But what if you’re the one Private Student Loan Borrower? To inquire about disability loan forgiveness, visit the source of your loan – bank, credit union, private lender. “It’s really a lender by lender case,” Pentis says. “Each lender has its own application process and policy.” In either case, you will need to show proof of your disability.
Recourse to Plan B, like bankruptcy, can be a long shot avenue to seek. “Bankruptcy courts look at certain factors to determine whether repayment of student loans is causing undue hardship, thereby justifying the discharge of some or all of the student loans,” Tyne says. It is challenging to prove the circumstances. “The odds are long and thin,” says Tyne, “but it could be a possible alternative.”