- Six bipartisan senators urged Education Sec. Cardona to forgive student debt for 512,000 borrowers with disabilities.
- They also requested Cardona get rid of the 3-year monitoring period required for debt forgiveness.
- Those with total and permanent disability qualify for student debt forgiveness, but the process is hard to navigate.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
The Higher Education Act permits borrowers with permanent disabilities to get their student loans forgiven, but the process is lengthy and difficult to navigate. Six bipartisan lawmakers want to change that.
On August 4, Sens. Chris Coons, Tammy Duckworth, Rob Portman, and Angus King, along with Reps. Ron Kind and Brian Fitzpatrick, wrote a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting the quick discharge of student loans for 517,000 borrowers identified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a total and permanent disability (TPD).
The Higher Education Act of 1965 allows for borrowers with TPD to have their loans forgiven, but paperwork and a three-year monitoring period make the process difficult for eligible borrowers and most of them never end up getting the debt relief they deserve.
"Therefore, we continue to lead a bipartisan, bicameral effort so that Americans will not longer face costly delays or bureaucratic barriers to receiving a benefit that they are entitled to under the law," the lawmakers wrote.
Established under President Barack Obama, anyone determined permanently disabled by a physician, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Veteran Affairs are eligible for federal student-debt cancelation, with a requirement to submit documentation during a three-year monitoring period to verify that their incomes did not exceed the poverty line.
In March, Cardona waived that requirement for 230,000 borrowers with disabilities for the duration of the pandemic, saying at the time it would "ensure no borrower who is totally and permanently disabled risks having to repay their loans simply because they could not submit paperwork."
The bipartisan lawmakers want the monitoring period to be further waived and requested the Education Department issue a final rule as soon as possible that provides automatic student-loan forgiveness for those who are designated as disabled within the SSA. They want a response from Cardona by the end of this month.
Insider previously reported on the struggles borrowers with disabilities have in getting the relief they deserve. Bethany Lilly, the director of income policy at The Arc, an organization advocating for people with disabilities, told Insider the department has "some very confusing and illogical standards that really hurt the beneficiaries," referring to disabled borrowers.
Although President Joe Biden has taken steps to provide relief for certain groups of borrowers during the pandemic, he recently said the payment pause extension through January is the "final extension," meaning that borrowers will have to resume repayment regardless of their financial situation. The bipartisan group, along with other Democrats, are pushing for continued relief.
"The Biden administration's decision to extend the student loan payment pause has provided immediate relief to millions of struggling families and borrowers," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter. "Now, the President should use his existing authority and permanently #CancelStudentDebt."
Do you have a story to share about student debt or concerns with the restarting student-debt payments? Reach out to Ayelet Sheffey at [email protected]