Utah attorney general calls for student loan forgiveness for permanently disabled veterans

A disabled veteran changes after a game of sled hockey during the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, April 4, 2007, location not specified | Photo by William D. Moss via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is leading a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general to urge the Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connection with their military service.

According to a press statement from Reyes’ office, this effort, which is also being spearheaded by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, calls on the Department of Education to develop a process to automatically discharge the student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible for such relief.

While the automatic discharge process is in development, the letter to DeVos from the attorneys general proposes that the department should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans.

“Forgiving their school loans is the least we can do to recognize their service and sacrifice,” Reyes said in the press statement. “These veterans have suffered permanent and total disability as a direct result of their service to our country. They and their families have sacrificed health, quality of life and often their dreams for the future. Many have lost their ability to work and pay off any school debt.”

Last year, the Department of Education identified more than 42,000 veterans nationwide as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability, the attorneys general note in their letter. However, fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, and more than 25,000 had student loans in default.

“There are many veterans in our state who signed up to serve our country and suffered life-altering injuries as a result,” Utah Chief Civil Deputy Attorney General Brian Tarbet said in the statement. “Discharging their student loan debt is simply the right thing to do. I personally know of military families in this situation who could benefit from this kind of assistance but would never ask for it. Let’s make it easier on them to make a better life for themselves after the life-changing sacrifices they made.”

The letter urges an automatic loan discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt out for personal reasons which “would eliminate unnecessary paperwork burdens and ensure that all eligible disabled veterans can receive a discharge.”

“Currently, far too few disabled vets who qualify for loan forgiveness have applied because they are unaware of or unable to make an application for the benefit,” Reyes said. “And far too many are in loan default, which negatively impacts their lives in very serious ways. Automatic forgiveness guarantees each of them the peace of mind they deserve and demonstrates our gratitude as a nation for what they have endured and continue to endure.”

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