Total and Permanent Disability

  • Your student loan(s) may be discharged if you become totally and permanently disabled.
  • For loan discharge purposes, "totally and permanently disabled" is defined as the condition of an individual who:
    1. As certified by a physician, is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that-
      1. Can be expected to result in death;
      2. Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or
      3. Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or
    2. Has been determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to be unemployable due to a service-connected disability.
    The term "substantial gainful activity" means a level of work performed for pay or profit that involves doing significant physical or mental activities, or a combination of both.
  • The disability standard for purposes of discharging student loan(s) may differ from disability standards used by other federal agencies (for example, the Social Security Administration) or state agencies. Except as noted below for certain veterans, a disability determination by another federal or state agency does not establish your eligibility for this discharge.
  • To apply for loan discharge based on total and permanent disability, you must complete and submit a Discharge Application: Total and Permanent Disability. Except for certain veterans as explained below, a physician must complete Section 4 of the form. You may request a Discharge Application: Total and Permanent Disability from our forms request page. The application explains what conditions have to be met, including how the law defines total and permanent disability for your loan(s) to be discharged (forgiven).
  • Except for certain veterans as explained below, if you are granted a loan discharge based on total and permanent disability you will be subject to a three-year post-discharge monitoring period. During the three-year post-discharge monitoring period, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) will reinstate your obligation to repay the debt if, within three years after the date the discharge is granted, you-
    1. Have annual earnings from employment that exceed the poverty guideline amount for a family of two, in your state, regardless of your actual family size;
    2. Receive a new Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant or a new loan under the Perkins or Direct Loan programs; or
    3. Fails to ensure that the full amount of any disbursement of a Title IV loan or TEACH Grant received prior to the discharge date that is made during the three-year period following the discharge date is returned to the loan holder or to the Department, as applicable, within 120 days of the disbursement date.
  • During the three-year period, you or, if applicable, your representative must (i) promptly notify the Department of any changes in address or phone number; (ii) promptly notify the Department if your annual earnings from employment exceed the amount specified above, and (iii) provide the Department, upon request, with documentation of your annual earnings from employment.
  • If you are a veteran, you will be considered totally and permanently disabled for loan discharge purposes if you complete a Discharge Application: Total and Permanent Disability and provide documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs showing that you have been determined to be unemployable due to a service-connected disability. If you provide this documentation, you are not required to have a doctor complete Section 4 of the discharge application or provide any additional documentation related to your disabling condition. Veterans who qualify for discharge under this standard are not subject to the three-year post-discharge monitoring period described above.

NOTE: PLUS Loans obtained by a parent on behalf of a student are not dischargeable on the basis of the student's total and permanent disability.

What to Do:

If you believe you qualify for a discharge due to total and permanent disability, you must complete and submit a Discharge Application: Total and Permanent Disability. You can download it now . Except for certain veterans as noted above, a physician must complete Section 4 of the discharge application. You must submit the completed discharge application within 90 days of the date of the physician's certification in Section 4. Veterans who have received a determination from the Department of Veterans Affairs that they are unemployable due to a service-connected disability must include documentation of this determination with the completed discharge application.

Once your form is complete and certified/signed and you have all the required accompanying documentation (see form for details), you must:

  • Return the completed application to the party that holds your loan.
  • If your loan is currently being held by the Default Resolution Group (your loan letters and payment requests will show the address to send your payments as the National Payment Center in Atlanta, GA), send your completed discharge application and required accompanying documentation to:

    U.S. Department of Education
    P.O. Box 5609
    Greenville, TX 75403-5609

You may also request a copy of the discharge application form by calling
1-800-621-3115 (TTY: 1-877-825-9923).

For more information about loan discharge based on total and permanent disability, please visit http://www.disabilitydischarge.com.