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New Data: ED Department Withholding Debt Discharges for More Than Half a Million Student Borrowers With Disabilities Entitled to Relief

June 11, 2021

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New Data: ED Department Withholding Debt Discharges for More Than Half a Million Student Borrowers With Disabilities Entitled to Relief
A broad coalition of organizations sent a letter to the Department today reiterating calls to immediately discharge debt for eligible borrowers

The Department of Education continues to withhold student debt discharges for more than 500,000 eligible borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled, according to new data recently obtained by Student Defense. . The revelation comes as Student Defense and 17 organizations sent a letter calling on the Department to immediately discharge debt for these borrowers. The letter was sent in support of a Section 553(e) Rulemaking Petition filed in April by Student Defense, Justice in Aging, and the Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. of Delaware, calling on the Department to amend its regulations to automatically discharge student loans for borrowers determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to be entitled to a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge.

According to the new data, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Department has identified over 818,000 borrowers who are entitled to a TPD t discharge since SSA started identifying such borrowers in 2016. As of June 10, more than 517,000 of these borrowers have still not been granted a discharge. These borrowers carry more than $8 billion in federal student loan debt. 

“The Department’s red tape is preventing hundreds of thousands of borrowers with disabilities from receiving the relief they are entitled to under the law,” the letter from student, consumer, and disability rights advocates reads. “Failing to amend the regulations and provide relief before the student loan payment freeze expires on September 30, 2021 will cause significant financial harm to these hundreds of thousands of borrowers. 

The Department has faced mounting pressure to discharge this debt since President Biden assumed office. Student Defense also addressed TPD discharges in its 100 Day Docket, which outlines numerous executive actions the Biden Administration can take to provide borrowers relief without needing federal legislation. 

“The Department has made the TPD discharge process needlessly cumbersome for borrowers with disabilities,” said Alex Elson, Student Defense Vice President. “They know who these borrowers are, they know they are entitled to relief, and there is simply no good reason why they cannot provide it now.”

You can read a full copy of the letter here.