News Releases

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Isakson Offers Bipartisan Plan to Automatically Waive Student Debt for Disabled Veterans

Would streamline process to ensure eligible disabled veterans receive total debt forgiveness

ATLANTA – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced legislation to ensure that veterans who were totally and permanently disabled in service to our country will automatically receive forgiveness of outstanding student debts.

Under current federal law, veterans who are deemed “totally and permanently” disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are eligible to have their student loan debt canceled. However, as currently administered, many veterans who qualify for this student loan relief are not receiving it, and disabled veterans may not even be aware they are eligible to have their loans waived.

The legislation, introduced last week, S.2049, would require the U.S. Department of Education to automatically forgive loans of veterans who were determined by the VA to be 100% disabled or individually unemployable. 

“This is a commonsense way to make it easier for totally and permanently disabled veterans to receive the student loan relief they deserve, and I hope that we’re able to act quickly on it,” said Senator Isakson, a member of the committee that oversees federal education matters and chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

In 2018, the Department of Education and the VA announced a data-matching program under which the VA would provide data to the Department of Education concerning veterans who were determined to be 100% disabled or individually unemployable. The Department of Education then planned to alert eligible veterans with federal student loans of the opportunity to apply for debt relief. However, despite these initial efforts, the Department of Education reported this spring that of the more than 40,000 veterans who were identified as eligible for loan forgiveness through the matching program, more than half had not submitted the required paperwork and, as a result, have not had their loans forgiven. Many of these individuals are still currently in default on their loans, leading to financial repercussions for them and their families. 

The legislation would require the Department of Education and the VA to conduct a computer-matching program at least twice a year of individuals with student loans who have received a rating of total disability or who have been determined to be unemployable. It would also require the departments to work together to address minor discrepancies in the data to ensure that no veteran falls through the cracks due to a clerical error. Finally, it would require the Department of Education to automatically forgive student loans for individuals identified as eligible through the matching program, unless the borrower opts out. 

Isakson introduced the legislation jointly with U.S. Senator Jack Reed, D-R.I., who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Armed Services. S.2049 has won the support of numerous veterans organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, High Ground Advocacy, Student Veterans of America, the Retired Enlisted Association, Veterans Education Success, and the U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association.  

Companion legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Conor Lamb, D-Pa., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.

The complete text of the bill can be found here.