Attorneys general from 47 states are advocating for veterans buried below mountains of debt. Three days before Memorial Day, they asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to forgive their student loans.
A FOIA request filed by the group Veterans Education Success discovered that nearly 60 percent of eligible veterans had missed loan payments since April 2018.
According to NPR, 42,000 veterans, making up over $1 billion in education debt, currently qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (TPD). Veterans must apply for the program before they can leverage the debt relief. Only about 20 percent of those eligible veterans have applied.
“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to assist those who have put their lives on the line to defend us,” reads a letter signed by AGs from nearly the entire U.S., including Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories. “There is no statutory or legal requirement that the Department of Education demand that eligible veterans affirmatively apply for TPD discharges before the Department will forgive their loans.”
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The Department of Education acknowledged the letter, but not that the loan forgiveness would be carried through. According to Reuters, the department waned to avoid any “unintended consequences,” like a greater tax burden, or trouble borrowing money at another time.
“While ‘automatic discharge’ may seem like a simple solution, there are long-term impacts we want all veterans to have the chance to consider before their loans are discharged,” the department wrote.
The AGs see it otherwise.
“[F]ederal tax law now excludes loan discharges for disabled borrowers from taxable income, and most states’ tax codes do likewise,” their letter reads. “Moreover, we think it likely that most borrowers would prefer to have one hundred percent of their outstanding loans discharged, even if this resulted in an increase to their state tax bill.”
Secretary of Education DeVos has not responded to the letter.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.