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May 29, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL CALLS FOR AUTOMATIC DISCHARGES OF STUDENT LOANS FOR DISABLED VETERANS

Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with a coalition of 51 attorneys general, urged the Department of Education (DOE) to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connection with their military service.

The bipartisan letter sent by Raoul and the coalition calls on the DOE 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 proposes, the DOE should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans, and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans.

“By developing a process to automatically discharge student loans of permanently disabled veterans, we can eliminate an unnecessary burden for these individuals,” Raoul said. “I am urging the Department of Education to do what is right and take action to better protect those who have put their lives at risk protecting us.”

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

Under federal law, the DOE is required to discharge the federal student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be unemployable (or totally and permanently disabled) due to a service-connected condition. Although the DOE currently requires disabled veterans to take affirmative steps to apply for a loan discharge, those steps are not required by law.

Raoul and the coalition note that the federal government has taken some steps to make it easier for eligible veterans to secure student loan relief. According to the letter, however, an automatic discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt out for personal reasons “would eliminate unnecessary paperwork burdens and ensure that all eligible disabled veterans can receive a discharge.”

“Proposals for automatic discharges with opt-out rights have bipartisan support in Congress and among leading veterans’ advocacy organizations,” the letter states. The veterans groups supporting such proposals have included: Vietnam Veterans for America, Veterans Education Success, The Retired Enlisted Association, High Ground Advocacy, and Ivy League Veterans Council.

Joining Raoul in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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