Some physical or mental impairments can qualify you for a total and permanent disability discharge on your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation.

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

A total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge relieves you from having to repay a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, and/or Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program loan or complete a TEACH Grant service obligation on the basis of your total and permanent disability. Before your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation can be discharged, you must provide information to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to show that you are totally and permanently disabled. ED will evaluate the information and determine if you qualify for a TPD discharge.

If you think you might qualify and want to apply for a TPD discharge, you must provide the information ED needs to make a determination by completing a TPD discharge application and gathering supporting documentation that shows you are totally and permanently disabled. Depending on your situation, you will either attach the supporting documentation to your application or have your physician complete Section 4 of your application. Once everything is complete, you’ll mail the discharge application and, if required, the supporting documentation to the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer.

Has there been a change to the TPD discharge process?

How do I show that I am totally and permanently disabled?

What should I do if I want to apply for a TPD discharge?

Can my representative apply on my behalf and help me throughout the TPD discharge process?

What happens if ED approves my TPD discharge request?

What happens if ED denies my TPD discharge request?

Where do I find more information about TPD discharge?


Has there been a change to the TPD discharge process?

Yes. The information on this page reflects changes to the TPD discharge process that were made by final regulations issued on November 1, 2012 (PDF, Text). These changes apply to all TPD discharge applications received on or after July 1, 2013.

If your TPD discharge application was received before July 1, 2013, your application will continue to be processed in accordance with the procedures that were in effect prior to the regulatory changes. Those procedures are described on the application that you completed.

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How do I show that I am totally and permanently disabled?

You can show that you are totally and permanently disabled in one of the following three ways:

  1. If you are a veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing that the VA has determined that you are unemployable due to a service-connected disability.
  2. If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can submit a Social Security Administration (SSA) notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within five to seven years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination.
  3. You can submit certification from a physician that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
  • Can be expected to result in death,
  • Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months, or
  • Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

Each option for showing that you are totally and permanently disabled has specific requirements for the supporting documentation that you must submit with your TPD discharge application.  To review the supporting documentation requirements, visit the TPD Discharge website at www.disabilitydischarge.com and click on Application Process.

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What should I do if I want to apply for a TPD discharge?

You should let the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer know that you want to apply.  Nelnet assists ED in administering the TPD discharge process. The servicer manages the TPD discharge website and communicates with borrowers on behalf of ED concerning TPD discharge requests.

You can let the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer know that you want to apply by phone or e-mail.

Another way to let the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer know that you want to apply is to start your TPD discharge application online. If you want to start your application online, visit the TPD Discharge website at www.disabilitydischarge.com and click on Apply Now.

When you let the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer know that you want to apply for a TPD discharge, the servicer will take the following actions:

  • First, Nelnet will provide you with the information you need to apply for a TPD discharge.
  • Second, Nelnet will review its records and identify your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation that may qualify for a TPD discharge.
  • Finally, Nelnet will contact your loan holders and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans for a period of up to 120 days. This means that during the 120-day period you will not be required to make payments on your loans.

The suspension of collection activity will give you time to complete the TPD discharge application and return it to the Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer for processing. If Nelnet does not receive your application within the 120-day period, your loan holders will resume collection activity on your loans, and you will again be required to make payments.

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Can my representative apply on my behalf and help me throughout the TPD discharge process?

Yes, your representative can complete and submit your TPD discharge application on your behalf, and assist you throughout the discharge process. However, you and your representative must complete an Applicant Representative Designation form. The Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer must receive and process this form before it can work with your representative. You must submit this form even if you have a power of attorney for your representative.

To download and/or print the Applicant Representative Designation form, visit the TPD Discharge website at www.disabilitydischarge.com and click on Forms.

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What happens if ED approves my TPD discharge request?

This will depend on how you showed ED that you are totally and permanently disabled.

If you showed ED that you are totally and permanently disabled based on the VA’s determination of unemployability due to a service-connected disability or service-connected disabilities, the following will occur:

  • The Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval.
  • Nelnet will instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received on or after your disability date to the person who made the payments. For this purpose, your “disability date” is the effective date of the VA’s determination that you were unemployable due to a service‑connected disability.
  • After being notified that ED has approved your discharge request, your loan holders will discharge your loans.

If you showed ED that you are totally and permanently disabled based on SSA documentation or physician certification and ED approves your TPD discharge request, the following will occur:

  • The Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval.
  • Nelnet will instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received after your disability date to the person who made the payments. For this purpose, your “disability date” is the date Nelnet received the documentation of your SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits, or the date the physician certified your discharge application, depending on the type of documentation you provided to show that you are totally and permanently disabled.
  • After being notified that ED has approved your discharge request, your loan holders will transfer your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation to Nelnet for discharge. You will then be subject to a three-year post-discharge monitoring period that begins on the date the discharge is approved. There are requirements that you must meet during the post-discharge monitoring period. For detailed information regarding the three-year post-discharge monitoring period requirements, visit the TPD Discharge website at www.disabilitydischarge.com and click on Monitoring Period.
  • Nelnet will reinstate your obligation to repay your discharged loans or complete your discharged TEACH Grant service obligation if at any time during the three-year monitoring period you do not meet the requirements of the post-discharge monitoring period.

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What happens if ED denies my TPD discharge request?

This will depend on how you showed ED that you are totally and permanently disabled.

If you showed ED that you are totally and permanently disabled based on the VA’s determination of unemployability due to a service-connected disability or service-connected disabilities, the following will occur:

  • The Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer will notify you of the denial by U.S. Mail.
  • Nelnet will instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans.
  • The letter that Nelnet sends will include the reason for the denial and information on how you may request a re-evaluation of your application by submitting additional documentation from the VA.

If you showed ED that you are totally and permanently disabled based on SSA documentation or physician certification, the following will occur:

  • The Nelnet Total and Permanent Disability Servicer will notify you of the denial by U.S. Mail.
  • Nelnet will instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans.
  • The letter that Nelnet sends will include the reason for the denial and instructions on what you can do if you have questions about the basis of the decision or believe there is other information that ED should consider.

Note: If you receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant before ED grants a discharge, ED will deny your discharge request and instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans.

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Where do I find more information about TPD discharge?

For complete information about TPD discharge, including the TPD discharge application, visit the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge website at www.disabilitydischarge.com.

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