President Obama is searching for 350,000 permanently disabled Americans to forgive their student loan debt

After years of failing to reach eligible disabled debt holders, the White House is getting proactive

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published April 12, 2016 9:20PM (EDT)

                    (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Obama's Department of Education is set to take on the huge task of identifying and forgiving the federal student loan debt of 400,000 permanently disabled Americans.

The Washington Post reports that beginning next week, the Obama administration plans to forgive $7.7 billion in federal student loan debt for 387,000 people who receive disability payments and have the specific designation of “Medical Improvement Not Expected,” 179,000 of whom are currently in default on their student loans, putting them at risk of having their Social Security benefits garnished.

“Too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief,” Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said in a statement Tuesday. “Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief. And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.”

While by law, anyone with a permanent disability is already eligible to have the government forgive their federal student loans, few have taken advantage in the last several years. According to the Post,  "the Department of Education is now taking it upon itself to identify eligible borrowers and guide them through the steps to discharge their loans":

Starting next week, borrowers identified in the match will receive a letter from the government explaining the steps needed to receive a discharge. They will not be required to submit documentation of their eligibility, unlike disabled borrowers who apply for the discharge on their own

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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