While military service members qualify for basic Public Service Loan Forgiveness just like other public servants like nurses and firefighters, there are also some special programs that apply only to service members that could also provide the debt relief you need. In addition, there are options available even if you’re a veteran. What’s more, even if your remaining can’t be forgiven, there are other options available for debt relief that may help you out of the bind you’re facing with student debt.
The information below is designed to help you understand the different options available for military student loan forgiveness and other service member and veteran relief options. If you still have questions or you’d like to talk for free with a student debt relief specialist about your specific situation, call us at 1-888-472-0365 or complete the form to the right to request help online.
How Public Service Loan Forgiveness applies to military
Public Service Loan Forgiveness means that your remaining balances are forgiven after you make 120 payments on a qualifying consolidation program. Essentially, you consolidate your Direct federal student loans using a program like Income-Based Repayment and then after you make payments for 10 years, all of the debt that remains gets erased from the books without any penalties or credit damage.
One important thing to note is that Public Service Loan Forgiveness only applies if you are currently employed for the public good and continue to be employed in public service for that entire 10-year span. If you leave the service, you’re no longer eligible.
Other ways to erase your outstanding student debt
There are two additional special options for loan forgiveness that only apply to military:
- DoD Loan Repayment. This is where the Department of Defense agrees to repay your loans for you under the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program. The DoD basically agrees to repay some loans in order to attain and retain the best people for the jobs they need. The program allows the DoD to pay up to $10,000 for the loan holder in a calendar year, and no more than $60,000 overall – in return, the loan holder agrees to stay in service for no less than 3 years.
Fact: The DoD along with the Departments of Justice and State account for more than 68% of loan repayments made on the program 
- Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge. This option allows veterans to qualify for total student loan forgiveness without any payment plan or consolidation necessary if the veteran has a service-connected disability. The program is designed to provide relief for those who cannot continue active duty due to a disability.
Easing the burden without erasing the debt
Loan forgiveness is not the only way you can find the relief you need from your student debt payments if you’re an active-duty service member. There are a range of other options that can alleviate some of the burden of your debt, at least while you serve.
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Interest Rate Cap. This program caps the interest that can be applied to all federal AND private student loans at 6% so your loans don’t balloon during and immediately following active-duty service.
- 0% Interest. During active-duty service is a hostile area, interest on Direct federal loans is eliminated completely for up to 60 months. You must be serving in a hostile region that qualifies you for special pay to qualify for this program. It also doesn’t apply to other types of federal loan or any private loans.
- Deferment options. There are also two options for deferment of your student loan debt, where your payments are temporarily stopped without penalties. The first option is for people on active duty service who are already paying off their loans – payments are deferred for a certain period of time so you don’t have to pay during a war, a national emergency or during an operation. The second option is for students still attending school who have student loans. In most cases, if you stop attending school at least part-time then your loan repayment schedule starts. This deferment option allows you to serve on active duty without worrying that your student loan payments will start as a result.
True or false: You should try to make interest payments on your loans during the time when your loans are deferred.
Tip: Deferment stops your payment schedule, but it doesn’t stop interest charges. Paying the interest on deferred loans keeps your balances from going up while you serve.