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HELPS is a nonprofit law firm and 501(c)(3) charitable organization. We serve senior citizens and disabled persons struggling with debt.

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How Disabled Persons Can Discharge Student Loanss

Find Out More About The Total And Permanent Disability Discharge Of Student Loans.

Many HELPS clients receiving Social Security or VA disability owe student loans. In addition to a deferment or income driven repayment plans, there is a process for discharging public student loans completely. This is called a Total and Permanent Disability Discharge or TPD.   I will explain how this can be done whether or not you have social security disability or not.  There is no cost involved to apply for TPD.  

Private student loans do not qualify for TPD.  However private student loans cannot take a senior’s social security or other retirement income.  Therefore these loans, even if they can’t be discharged don’t have to paid if a seniors income is federally protected social security and other disability or retirement income.

Here is a summary of the steps you will need to take to discharge your public student loans.

  1. Copy of your social security disability award 

Get a copy of your Social Security Administration (SSA) notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years, or more, from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination. If your SSA notice of award does not indicate when your next scheduled disability review will occur.  If you don’t have a copy of your award,  you can obtain this information by calling your local SSA office or by calling 800.772.1213 and requesting a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY). The Benefits Planning Query will show when your next review is scheduled to occur.  

  1. Fill out the application

The US Department of Education delegates discharge determination processing of student loans to Nelnet which is a private student loan servicer.  
Online: Go to this website:
Complete the application for discharge either online at the website above or print out a copy. If you have a BPQY that shows a disability review in 5-7 years or more you can upload a copy to the application online or attach an email copy and email it to

By hand, then mail:  If you can’t upload or email you can print the filled-out application, if filled out by hand and mail with attachments to: U.S. Department of Education P.O. Box 87130 Lincoln, NE 68501-7130,

  1. If you don’t have a review date or it is less than five years

In case you don’t have a scheduled review listed on the letter or the review date is less than five years you would need to have a doctor fill out the 2nd page of the  TPD application. An application requiring page 2 certification by a doctor must be submitted by mail.


  1. Certification by doctor alone

You can still apply for TPD if you are not receiving SSD based on a  certification by a doctor or osteopath completing page 2 of the TPD application certifying 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.

  1. Military Service connected disability

If you are a disabled veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing that the VA has determined that you are unemployable due to a service-connected disability.  There are a number of other ways for veterans to deal with student loans also explained in the websites below:

A  physician  will need to complete this form

  1. Wait for a determination

After your TPD application has been submitted, Nelnet will then contact the holders of your federal student loans and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans while they determine your eligibility for discharge. This means that you will not be required to make payments on your loans while your discharge application is evaluated.  

Once Nelnet receives the application they will send you a letter stating that they are in the process of review and will tell you how long before you will receive the final review- usually 60-90 days.  They will review the application that you submit along with any supporting documentation, if any, to ensure that the application is complete and that it includes information that indicates you may qualify for a discharge. That is all that needs to be done until you get your determination.

  1. Parent Plus Loan

Parents with PLUS loans may apply for discharge based on their own disabilities, not those of their children. If two parents have a PLUS loan and only one becomes disabled, the other parent remains obligated to repay the loan.

  1. More information
HELPS is a nationwide nonprofit 501(c)3 law firm that protects seniors and disabled from unwanted collector contact.  Social security, disability and retirement income is protected by federal law and doesn’t need to be used to pay debt you can’t afford to pay.  HELPS never turns away a qualified senior or disabled person who needs our help.  We also educate lower income and poor seniors how they can maintain their financial independence.   We assist our clients that need our help apply for TPD for student loan debt.   Please call HELPS 855-435-7787 or visit our website at

Eric Olsen Executive Director HELPS Nonprofit Law Firm

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