See below for tips to end roadblocks faced by our older population when dealing with student loans!
In a Yahoo Finance article this week, several problems were outlined and addressed during Secretary DeVos’ testimony on Capitol Hill. First, lengthy delays in the Borrower Defense to Repayment program for those who were fraudulently misled by their schools. Second, public service forgiveness denials for those who believed their student loan payments have been counting for years. And third, confusion and difficulties for those trying to obtain student loan relief due to their disabilities. I’d like to focus on this problem because while public service and fraudulent schools have had tons of press over the past couple years, the roadblocks faced by disabled borrowers have not been discussed much at all.
Under federal law, a disabled person can apply for total and permanent disability discharge to relieve their federal student loan debt. However, on December 4, 2019, NPR released the data and results of an investigation that showed that only 28% of eligible borrowers identified between March 2016 and September 2019 have either had their loans wiped clean or are on track for that to happen.
First, many borrowers don’t know of the availability of this relief. I can attest to that firsthand. Time and time again, I present options, including disability relief, to potential clients who are hearing of these options for the very first time. Despite having made payments for years, and regular conversations with their loan servicers. But. It. Keeps. Happening.
We have saved borrowers from social security offsets, and tax refund seizures by filing TPD applications. Often in record time – I think the fastest approval was obtained in 1.5 months.
Even if a borrower somehow learns of the form, filling it out correctly and providing legal arguments about their inability to obtain employment and providing any necessary back up data are something beyond many people’s abilities. Most of our TPD applications focus on cognitive type disabilities. Age is a big factor. Standing, walking and lifting are not necessary for many jobs. For instance, I can do a large part of my job in my pajamas. For all you know, I’m in bed wearing pajamas right now! I may argue that someone cannot fulfill the essential functions of their former job, or any job for which they were trained to do, under the FMLA. I may argue that the ADA does not require reasonable accommodation or no such accommodation is possible for a particular disability. I may focus on the side effects of medication to control symptoms as opposed to the disability itself.
Quoting a health care lawyer, proving “a disability to the DOE using its own form is not easy. I know as a disabled borrower, I’ve done it myself. It was confusing and burdensome. And I was ultimately only able to navigate that process because I’m a health care lawyer.”
We regularly submit TPD applications to forgive student loan debt. I’ve blogged about this several times, if you wish to look back for some of the advice we give. I feel my employment law experience combined with student loan experience gives me a leg up in obtaining this relief and to date we have not had one denial. So when push comes to shove, the DOE will do the right thing! But they constantly throw roadblocks up to try and prevent a borrower from having their own advocate who is on their side.