There are many reasons to join the U.S. Military. Today, many people are being swayed to join by the outstanding educational benefits. In fact, the Army credited advertising campaigns focused on education and a “path to the middle class” for its recent goal-busting recruiting numbers.
Most people have heard of the G.I. Bill, but many don’t know that there are other ways that joining the Military can help you pay off your student loans. While members of the armed forces 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 military Service Members that could also provide the debt relief you need. In addition, there are even options for student loan forgiveness for Veterans. Even if your remaining balance can’t be forgiven, there may be other options for debt relief.
The information below will help you understand the different options available for military student loan forgiveness programs 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 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 monthly payments on a qualifying federal repayment plan. Essentially, you consolidate your 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
PSLF isn’t the only option you have as a member of the U.S. Military if you want to get rid of your student debt.
DoD Loan Repayment
This is where the Department of Defense (DoD) agrees to repay your loans under the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program. The DoD basically agrees to repay some loans 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.
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 provides relief for those who cannot continue active duty due to a disability.
Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program
To qualify for this repayment program, you have to be a healthcare professional who works in an area with skill shortage. This applies to commissioned officers and active-duty Service Members, but not to those in the reserves. Read more about student loan repayment requirements for healthcare professionals in the military.
National Defense Student Loan Discharge
Did you get Federal Perkins Loans from your school? This program could help you discharge up to 100% of the amount you took out. For those that finished their service before August 14th, 2008 and served in an area of hostile fire or imminent danger, you could get up to 50% of your Perkins Loans cancelled. If you didn’t serve at least 12 months, which counts as a whole year of service, then you won’t be eligible. See if you qualify.
Military College Loan Repayment Programs (CLRP)
If you meet certain qualifications as a member of the Army, Army Reserves, Navy, Navy Reserves, Air Force, Nation Guard, or Coast Guard, you could be eligible for the College Loan Repayment Program. Unfortunately, the Marines do not offer CLRP. Read more about qualifying for CLRP here.
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program
Members of the Judge Advocate General program are eligible for student loan repayment up to $65,000. Find out how you can get started with the JAG program.
Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program
Army Student Loan Repayment: Active Duty
If you’re Active Duty in the U.S. Army, you could have up to $65,000 of your student loans repaid by the government. Learn the details of loan repayment for active-duty members of the Army.
National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
As part of the Army National Guard, you may be eligible for their student loan repayment program. Check the requirements here.
Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
In their first three years of service, Sailors can qualify for the Navy Student Loan Repayment Program. Find out if you are eligible.
Easing the burden without erasing the debt
Loan forgiveness is not the only way to get relief from your student debt payments as an active-duty Service Member. There are 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 applied to all federal AND private student loans at 6%. This way, your loans don’t balloon during and immediately following active-duty service.
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 loans or any private loans.
There are also two options for deferment of your student loan debt, where your payments temporarily stop 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. 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.
The Bottom Line
The people who volunteer to serve our country deserve as much as we can give, and education is an important way to invest in our Service Members. If you serve or have served in the United States Military and you have student loans, explore all pathways to forgiveness and techniques for reducing your payments.
Article last modified on September 27, 2019. Published by Debt.com, LLC