• Application Process

    If you think you might qualify and want to apply for a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge, you must provide the information the U.S. Department of Education (called “the Department” throughout this site) 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 us.

    How Do I Obtain A TPD Discharge Application?

    To obtain a TPD discharge application, you may choose one of the following options:

    • Start TPD Discharge Application Online – This option allows you to start your TPD discharge application online. We’ll use your answers to specific questions to enter information into the application and then provide you with a partially completed application. We’ll provide the partially completed application to you in a PDF file that you can download and/or print.

      After you print your partially completed TPD discharge application, you’ll need to complete Section 3 of the application. Next, you’ll either attach your supporting documentation to your application or have a physician complete Section 4 of your application. Finally, you’ll mail your discharge application and, if required, your supporting documentation to us.

      To start your TPD discharge application online, click here.
    • Download and/or Print Blank TPD Discharge Application – This option allows you to download and/or print a blank PDF of the TPD discharge application. You can choose to open the PDF and print the blank application or to save the PDF to your computer and then print it. In either case, you’ll need to complete sections 1 through 3 of the blank application. Next, you’ll either attach the supporting documentation to your application or have a physician complete Section 4 of your application. Finally, you’ll mail the discharge application and, if required, your supporting documentation to us.

      To download and/or print a blank TPD discharge application, click here.
    • Request TPD Discharge Application by Phone or Email – This option allows you to contact us by phone or email and ask that we send you a paper TPD discharge application through the mail. After you receive the blank paper application, you’ll complete sections 1 through 3. Next, you’ll either attach the supporting documentation to your application or have a physician complete Section 4 of your application. Finally, you’ll mail the discharge application and, if required, your supporting documentation to us.

      To request a TPD discharge application by phone or email, call us seven days a week at 888.303.7818 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) or email us at DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net.

    Can My Representative Apply On My Behalf And Help Me Throughout The 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. We must receive and process this form before we 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, click here.

    How Do I Show That I’m Totally And Permanently Disabled?

    Regardless of how you obtain a TPD discharge application, the information that you provide when you apply will assist the Department in determining if you qualify for discharge of your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation on the basis of your total and permanent disability. 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 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination; or

    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.

    What Are The Application And Supporting Documentation Requirements For Each Option?

    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. In the next section, we explain the discharge application and supporting documentation requirements for each option. Once you identify the option that applies to you, read the information under Actions to Take to understand what you’ll need to do to apply.

    1 - Veterans Affairs Determination:

    If you are a veteran, you will be considered totally and permanently disabled for the purposes of this discharge if you provide documentation from the VA showing that the VA has determined:

    • You have a service-connected disability, or service-connected disabilities, that are 100% disabling; or
    • You are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability determination.

    Actions to Take:

    • Complete sections 1 through 3 of your TPD discharge application
    • Return the application along with a copy of the complete documentation of your VA determination (as described earlier) to the address below

    Note: If you provide the VA documentation described earlier, you are not required to have a physician complete Section 4 of the application.

    2 - Social Security Administration Determination:

    If you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, you will be considered totally and permanently disabled for the purposes of this discharge if you provide an SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination.

    If your SSA notice of award does not indicate when your next scheduled disability review will occur, you can obtain this information by calling your local SSA office or by calling 800.772.1213 and requesting a Benefits Planning Query. The Benefits Planning Query will show when your next review is scheduled to occur.

    Actions to Take:

    • Complete sections 1 through 3 of your TPD discharge application
    • Return the application along with a complete copy of your SSA notice of award (as described earlier) or, if applicable, your Benefits Planning Query to the address below

    Note: If you provide the SSA documentation described earlier, you are not required to have a physician complete Section 4 of the application

    3 - Physician Certification:

    Alternatively, to show that you are totally and permanently disabled for the purposes of this discharge, you may submit the TPD discharge application with a certification from a physician that shows you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that (1) can be expected to result in death; (2) has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or (3) can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

    “Substantial gainful activity” is a level of work performed for pay or profit that involves doing significant physical and/or mental activities.

    Actions to Take:

    • Complete sections 1 through 3 of the TPD discharge application
    • Have a physician who is a licensed doctor of medicine or osteopathy fully complete Section 4 of the application
    • Return the completed application to the address provided below within 90 days of the date that your physician signed the TPD discharge application

    What Happens After I Mail My Application?

    After we receive your TPD discharge application, we will take the following actions:

    • First, we’ll contact the holders of your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans while we determine your eligibility for discharge. This means that you will not be required to make payments on your loans while we evaluate your discharge application.
    • Second, we’ll review the TPD discharge application that you submit along with any supporting documentation to ensure that the application is complete, and that it includes information that indicates you may qualify for a discharge.
    • Finally, once we have received all required documentation and have determined that you appear to meet the eligibility requirements for a TPD discharge, we’ll forward your request on to the Department for a final decision.

    Where Do I Send My Completed Application?

    When your TPD discharge application is complete, mail your application and, if required, your supporting documentation to us at the following address:

    U.S. Department of Education
    P.O. Box 87130
    Lincoln, NE 68501-7130

    What If I Have Additional Questions?

    If you have additional questions about this process, refer to the FAQ section of this website.

    You can also call us seven days a week at 888.303.7818 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) or email us at DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net.

     

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