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Can My Student Loans Be Cancelled if I Am Found Disabled?

September 17, 2016 by Robert L. Heller

If you have outstanding Federal Student Loans and you are found to be disabled, they can be cancelled or discharged, providing you meet the stringent requirements of the agency that awarded the loan.

A Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge applies to a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, Federal Family Education Loan (FEEL) Program loan, and/or Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program loan, or complete a TEACH Grant service obligation on the basis for your total and permanent disability.

In order for this to occur, you must provide the requested information to the U.S. Department of Education to show your disability.  The information will be evaluated and a decision made regarding the discharge.

There are three ways to show your TPD:

  1. If you are a veteran, submit information showing that the VA has determined that you are unemployable due to a service-connected disability.
  2. If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or SSI, submit a Notice of Award stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within five to seven years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination.
  3. Submit certification from a physician that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death, has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months, or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

It is our experience that most Social Security Notices of Award do not contain information regarding scheduled disability reviews. After some research, we have found that this information is available to a Social Security disability recipient by requesting a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY). Once this information is obtained from Social Security, it should be submitted along with a copy of the Notice of Award.

Contact Nelnet; they assist in administering the TPD discharge process. Call Nelnet seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at (888) 303-7818 or email

If you have a Federal Student Loan and are on Social Security Disability, you can have it discharged with the right information. Contact Social Security today to get your Benefits Planning Query and start the process.

About the Author

Robert L. Heller
Robert L. Heller has practiced law in Ohio for nearly 40 years, devoting his entire career to helping disabled people in the Mahoning Valley to pursue needed benefits. A native of Warren, Ohio, Robert earned his undergraduate degree from Miami University of Ohio and his law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law. He also studied public administration at American University in Washington, D.C. He is admitted to practice in Ohio state courts, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals as well as a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR).

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