President Donald Trump announced plans on Wednesday to more expeditiously forgive the student loan debt of veterans with severe disabilities. The move comes after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for months resisted bipartisan calls to automatically cancel the loans, Politico reported.
Veterans and other student loan borrowers who are "totally and permanently" disabled are entitled under existing law to have their federal student loans canceled by the Education Department. However, the agency currently requires these individuals to fill out paperwork to become eligible for loan forgiveness—a bureaucratic obstacle that veterans' advocates slammed as too burdensome for many severely disabled veterans.
DeVos last year took steps to more easily identify which veterans were eligible for the benefit and send them letters. Yet the department still required eligible veterans to fill out paperwork before actually canceling the loans, despite bipartisan calls to change the process, Inside Higher Ed reported.
Under the "expedited" process outlined in a White House memorandum Wednesday, veterans will now receive loan forgiveness automatically unless they decide to opt out—a decision some might make because of issues like state tax liability. Congress last year eliminated federal tax liability for veteran loan forgiveness.
The new plan was applauded by veterans' groups and advocates for student borrowers. Some, however, said it showed the federal government could be doing more to automate loan forgiveness for other borrowers, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said the group would push the Trump administration to streamline other loan forgiveness programs as well.
"While we commend the administration, we will continue to call on it to take action to address the similarly egregious loan cancellation problems in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and TEACH Grant programs," he said.
White House Memorandum
Inside Higher Ed