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Total and Permanent Disability Discharge » Student Loan Debt » Total and Permanent Disability Discharge



Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (TPD) is a valuable program that offers relief to individuals burdened with student loan debt due to a severe and permanent disability. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to work and earn a sufficient income to repay your student loans, TPD provides a path to have your loans discharged, relieving you from the financial obligations associated with your educational debt.

Being disabled can qualify you for student loan forgiveness on your federal student loans, and perhaps even on your private loans too.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to clear some red tape to receive it.

The severity of your disability (for federal loans) and the generosity of your lender (for private) are among the factors that could decide your fate.

Understanding Total and Permanent Disability

Total and Permanent Disability refers to a condition that renders an individual incapable of engaging in substantial gainful activity. This disability must be expected to last indefinitely or result in death. The United States Department of Education sets specific criteria for determining total and permanent disability, ensuring that only those genuinely unable to repay their loans are eligible for discharge.

Eligibility Criteria for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

To be eligible for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. A licensed physician, the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs must certify your disability on your discharge application.
  2. The impairment must prevent substantial gainful activity.
  3. The impairment must be expected to last for at least five years or result in death.
  4. The applicant must not have previously received a discharge based on TPD.

Documentation and Application Process

To apply (or to have a trusted representative do so on your behalf), visit the DoED’s specialty website, Nelnet, the federal loan servicer that handles claims, will pause your payments for up to 120 days, although it typically takes less than 30 days to review your application.

The application process for TPD involves gathering the necessary documentation and submitting an application to the loan servicer. Documentation may include medical records, physician certification, or documentation from the Social Security Administration. It is essential to ensure that all required documentation is accurate and up-to-date to support your claim for total and permanent disability.

If your disability falls short of the “total and permanent” mandate, you’re not entirely out of options. You could request a deferment or forbearance — usually for up to 12 months, though possibly as long as three years, especially if your disability has damaged your personal finances.

Pausing your repayment isn’t a perfect solution: Your debt won’t go away, and it will continue to accrue interest (at least on your unsubsidized loans). Still, it could at least give you some breathing room while you focus on your health.

Benefits of Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge offers several significant benefits for individuals facing financial hardship due to their disabilities and student loan debt.

Loan Forgiveness

One of the primary benefits of TPD is the forgiveness of outstanding student loan debt. Once approved, your loans will be discharged, and you will no longer be responsible for making loan payments. This can provide a significant sense of relief and a fresh start financially.

Removal of Financial Burden

For individuals with disabilities, student loan debt can create a considerable financial burden. TPD eliminates this burden by freeing you from the obligation to repay your loans. This allows you to focus on managing your disability and improving your quality of life.

Preservation of Credit Score

Student loan debt can negatively impact your credit score if you struggle to make payments or default on your loans. With TPD, the discharged loans are not reported as a negative mark on your credit report. This helps preserve your credit score and allows you to rebuild your credit history.

Limitations and Considerations

While Total and Permanent Disability Discharge offers significant benefits, there are some limitations and considerations to keep in mind.

Tax Implications

The discharge of student loan debt through TPD may have tax implications. In some cases, the discharged amount can be considered taxable income. It is important to consult with a tax professional to understand any potential tax obligations associated with the discharge.

Impact on Future Borrowing

It’s crucial to understand that a TPD discharge may impact your ability to borrow in the future. Discharged loans may be reported to credit bureaus, and lenders may take this into account when assessing your creditworthiness for future loans or credit applications.

Monitoring and Recertification

Once you receive a TPD discharge, your eligibility will be subject to monitoring and recertification for up to three years. This ensures that your condition has not improved to the extent that you are capable of repaying your loans. Failure to comply with monitoring and recertification requirements may result in the reinstatement of your loan obligations.

How to Apply for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

Applying for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge involves several steps to ensure a smooth application process.

Total and Permanent Disability discharge (TPD) benefits for military Veterans who qualify will automatically be received. They no longer need to file paperwork due to a change the Department of Education (DOE) made for student loan forgiveness for disabled military Veterans.

Contacting Loan Servicer

The first step is to contact your loan servicer to obtain the necessary application form and understand the specific requirements and documentation needed. Your loan servicer will guide you through the application process and address any questions or concerns you may have.

Gathering Required Documentation

To support your claim for total and permanent disability, you will need to gather relevant documentation, such as medical records, physician certifications, or documentation from the Social Security Administration. It is essential to ensure that all documentation is complete, accurate, and up-to-date.

Submitting the Application

Once you have gathered all the required documentation, you can submit your application to your loan servicer. Ensure that you follow all instructions carefully and provide any additional information or forms as requested. It is advisable to keep copies of all documents for your records.

Don’t forget the rules of disability discharge on student loans

Even if you qualify for forgiveness on your federal or private student loans, ask your loan servicer or lender if there are any strings attached.

The DoED, for example, won’t prohibit you from returning to work. However, earning a significant income within three years of receiving a loan discharge could reset your repayment. You also wouldn’t be allowed to access federal financial aid (perhaps to go back to school) during the same three-year period without resetting the repayment of your discharged debt.

With private lenders, you might clarify whether your borrowing relationship will truly break, or ask about the effect loan discharge could have on your cosigner (if you have one).

Paying attention to the details of disability discharge will ensure you reap the rewards of loan forgiveness now — and avoid an unwelcome surprise later.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge for private student loans?

The path to loan forgiveness for disability isn’t as clear-cut in the world of private student loans. It all hinges on the bank, credit union or online company from which you borrowed.

Consult your loan agreement or phone your lender to learn about its policy. Discover, Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo are among those that offer loan forgiveness when the primary borrower suffers a designated permanent disability. Be prepared to document your disability for your lender.

If your lender isn’t so forgiving, ask about its other forms of support.

Your disability might be stopping you from earning your regular income, for example. In that case, you could apply for your lender’s economic hardship forbearance or unemployment protection program (if it has one).

A forbearance would only temporarily pause your payments — not forgive them — but it’s a start. Still, keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue on your loan balance while you take a break from repayment.

If your disability isn’t stopping you from keeping pace with your loans, you might gauge your fit for the more permanent solution of student loan refinance. With a healthy credit score (or a cosigner who has one), you could consolidate your debt and lower your overall interest rate, saving potentially thousands of dollars over time.

Will my disability benefits be affected by Total and Permanent Disability Discharge?

No, TPD discharge does not affect any disability benefits you may be receiving. It is important to note that TPD discharge is separate from disability benefits and is specific to student loan obligations.

What happens to the outstanding balance of my loans after discharge?

After TPD discharge, the outstanding balance of your loans is forgiven and no longer needs to be repaid. You will no longer be responsible for making any further payments.

How long does the application process for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge take?

The application process for TPD can vary, but it typically takes several months. It is important to be patient and follow up with your loan servicer regularly to ensure the process is moving forward.

Is Total and Permanent Disability Discharge a one-time benefit?

Yes, TPD discharge is considered a one-time benefit. Once your loans are discharged, you will not be eligible for another discharge based on total and permanent disability. It is crucial to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria and provide accurate documentation during the application process.

Can I apply for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge if I am still working?

Yes, you can apply for TPD discharge even if you are still working. The primary requirement is that your disability prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.

Are there any fees associated with applying for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge?

No, there are no application fees or processing fees associated with applying for TPD discharge. Be cautious of any third-party organizations that may charge for assistance with the application process.

What types of loans are eligible for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge?

Federal student loans, including Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), and Perkins Loans, are eligible for TPD discharge. Private student loans are not eligible.

Can I reapply for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge if my initial application is denied?

Yes, if your initial application is denied, you can reapply. However, it is crucial to address any issues that led to the denial and provide additional or updated documentation to support your claim.

What is the deadline for applying for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge?

There is no specific deadline for applying for TPD discharge. You can apply at any time if you meet the eligibility criteria.


Total and Permanent Disability Discharge provides a lifeline for individuals burdened with student loan debt and facing total and permanent disability. It offers significant benefits, including loan forgiveness, the removal of financial burdens, and the preservation of credit scores. However, it is important to consider limitations, such as tax implications and the impact on future borrowing. By following the application process diligently and providing the necessary documentation, individuals can find relief from their student loan obligations and focus on improving their quality of life.

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