WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to move forward swiftly with rulemaking to automatically discharge the outstanding student loans of more than 517,000 Americans with a total and permanent disability (TPD). The letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Angus King (I-Maine), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
While the Higher Education Act of 1965 allows individuals with a TPD to have their outstanding federal student loans forgiven, these borrowers face significant challenges that are both administratively burdensome and unnecessary in the application and income monitoring process. Unfortunately, this has resulted in hundreds of thousands of eligible borrowers not getting the debt relief they are entitled to. However, many of these rules in place are not specified under law, meaning the Department of Education has the authority to change the regulations of the TPD program and make student loan discharges automatic for borrowers with a TPD upon being identified.
“While the Department has made improvements to the TPD process in recent years, more can be done to resolve inequities and burdens in the program. Therefore, we continue to lead a bipartisan, bicameral effort so that Americans will no longer face costly delays or bureaucratic barriers to receiving a benefit that they are entitled to under the law,” wrote the lawmakers. “The Department can eliminate unnecessary paperwork and provide swift relief to borrowers with an interim final rule to automate discharges under the TPD program. We continue to urge the Department to act on our request as soon as possible.”
The letter is available here.
In October 2019, Rep. Fitzpatrick signed on to letter to the Department of Education urging the Department to streamline the student loan discharge process and make it automatic upon a borrower being identified through matching agreements with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). In December 2019, Rep. Fitzpatrick joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in a letter urging the Department of Education’s acting inspector general to investigate the discharge process for Americans with a TPD in response to an alarming report from National Public Radio that found that between March 2016 and September 2019, only 28% of borrowers identified through the SSA data match as eligible for TPD discharge actually had their loans discharged or were on track for that to happen.