Total and Permanent Disability

If you're unable to work due to injury or illness, you may be eligible to have your federal student loans discharged. If eligible, this means you wouldn’t be responsible for any further payments.

There are 3 ways to qualify for total and permanent disability discharge:

  1. Doctor Certification: A doctor must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medical condition that:
    • Can be expected to result in death, or
    • Has lasted for a continuous period of no less than 60 months, or
    • Is expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 60 months.
  2. Veteran Affairs Certification: The Secretary of Veteran Affairs (VA) must certify that you cannot work because of a service-connected disability. 
  3. Social Security Benefits: As of July 1, 2013, if you receive Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Social Security Income (SSI) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your benefit eligibility every five to seven years.

Note: The third item applies only to applications filed on or after July 1, 2013.

What loans are eligible?

All federal Stafford, PLUS, Perkins, and Consolidation loans are eligible. Your loan responsibility if you are a co-signer or endorser on any PLUS or Consolidation loans would be dischargeable as well.

How do I apply?

Go to to get the discharge form. The site has additional information about how to fill out this form and how the discharge process works.

Once you begin the application process, you will automatically be placed in forbearance for 120 days. During that time, no payments are due.

If your doctor is certifying your application, your doctor will have to fill out Section 4 of the form. Once your doctor has filled out Section 4, you must finish submitting the form within 90 days.

If you are a disabled veteran or receive SSA benefits, you can provide a copy of your VA disability paperwork or SSA award instead of the doctor's portion of this form. You still need to fill out the other parts, though.

Be sure you fill the form out carefully and completely, because it cannot be processed if it is not complete.

Once you and/or your doctor have completed the form, submit it to:
US Department of Education
PO Box 87130
Lincoln, NE 68501

Your application will be handled by Nelnet, which has been designated to process all TPD applications. No payments are due while the application is being reviewed.

Post-Monitoring Period:

If you qualify by doctor certification or SSA award, you will be placed in a three year post-monitoring period after your application is approved. Your loan can be reinstated during this period if you:

  •  Receive a new federal student loan or TEACH Grant.
  •  Earn more income than 100% of the federal poverty guideline based on a family of 2.
  •  Don’t return any federal student loan or TEACH Grant disbursements made to you after the doctor’s certification.
  •  Receive a notice from the SSA saying that you are no longer disabled.
  •  Receive notice that your disability review will no longer be every 5 to 7 years. 

Veteran applicants don’t have a post-monitoring period.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I applied for TPD discharge before July 1, 2013 but haven’t heard back yet. Who should I contact?
A. Applications received prior to July 1, 2013 will be reviewed and processed by the loan holder, which could be your lender or guaranty agency or Direct Loan servicer. For updates, you should contact whomever you sent your TPD application to initially.

Q. I applied for TPD discharge in the past but was denied. Can I apply again now that Social Security Disability is considered a qualifying status?
A. Yes. Borrowers may reapply for TPD discharge anytime new information becomes available about their disability. New regulations allowing TPD discharge due to some SS disability status’ falls in this category.

Q. Where do I obtain a TPD application?