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August 20, 2021

Senators King, Coons, Portman Applaud Education Department for Discharging Outstanding Loans for More than 323,000 Americans with a Permanent Disability

Announcement Comes Two Weeks After Lawmakers Sought Needed Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Office of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today shared the news from the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will be discharging the outstanding student loans for more than 323,000 Americans with a total and permanent disability (TPD), as King and his colleagues Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) encouraged earlier this month. The new directive will eliminate the requirement of student loan borrowers with a TPD who were matched through Social Security Administration (SSA) data to fill out an application before receiving relief. This change will go into effect with the department’s next quarterly data match with SSA, which will occur in September. In addition, the department will indefinitely stop sending automatic requests for earnings information from SSA-matched borrowers and pursue the elimination of the three-year monitoring period during the negotiated rulemaking in October.

“This announcement from the Department of Education is welcome news for the hundreds of thousands of borrowers with a total and permanent disability who have faced burdens and inequities in receiving student debt relief they are entitled to under law,” said the Senators. “For years, we have urged the department to use their authority to improve the lives of these student loan borrowers and we are grateful to Secretary Cardona for taking action to finally address this vital issue by automating the loan discharge process. We will continue to stay engaged on this matter to ensure eligible borrowers get the help they deserve and look forward to the permanent changes to the monitoring period that the department seeks to make this fall.”  

While the Higher Education Act of 1965 allows individuals with a TPD to have their outstanding federal student loans forgiven, these borrowers face significant challenges that are both administratively burdensome and unnecessary in the application and income monitoring process. Unfortunately, this has resulted in hundreds of thousands of eligible borrowers not getting the debt relief they are entitled to.  Today’s announcement gives new clarity and certainty to these Americans and their families, after years of unnecessary concern.

Throughout his Senate career, Senator King has advocated for student loan borrowers – particularly those who endure the extraordinary hardship of a permanent disability. In April 2019, Senator King joined Senators Coons and Portman to introduce Domenic’s Law, legislation which would allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for student loan forgiveness. After an alarming report in 2019 from National Public Radio (NPR) which found that hundreds of thousands of Americans with qualifying disabilities have not received the student loan relief they are entitled to by law, Senator King joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging the Department’s Acting Inspector General, Sandra Bruce, to investigate the federal student loan discharge process for Americans with total and permanent disabilities (TPD).

Senator King was a sponsor of the landmark Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, which was signed into law in 2013 and has lowered student loan interest rates for all students who have taken out a loan after July 1, 2013. The law has helped American students and families save tens of billions of dollars.

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