Physician Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below you will find a series of commonly asked questions from the medical community regarding the total and permanent disability process. The questions are grouped by topics. To search for responses, simply click on a topic: Physician Credentials & Licensure, Certifying Total and Permanent Disability, Privacy Issues
Physician Credentials & Licensure
What kinds of doctors may certify total and permanent disability on the Discharge Application: Total and Permanent Disability?
Only a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.) who is licensed to practice in the United States may certify total and permanent disability on the Discharge Application: Total and Permanent Disability
. For this purpose, the United States includes the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
Chiropractors, herbalists, physician's assistants, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), Ph.D.s, interns, etc., are not eligible to certify total and permanent loan discharge applications. However, some states do fully license residents in training. A resident who is fully licensed may certify the application.
- Will my license be verified?
The U.S. Department of Education verifies the license of every physician who certifies a total and permanent disability discharge application by checking the records of the appropriate state agency. However, some states do not make physician licensing information readily available to the public. If we are unable to verify your physician’s license number, we may contact you and request that you provide a copy of your license.
Certifying Total and Permanent Disability
- This patient is a veteran and I am employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Can I certify that this patient is totally and permanent disabled?
VA policy does not prevent you from providing medical opinions to other agencies, at the request of the veteran. Please see the Veterans Health Administration directive detailing this policy. Although the former directive document expired September 31, 2005, the VA issued the current directive on October 29, 2008.
- What is the process for certifying total and permanent disability for borrowers who are veterans?
Veteran borrowers will be considered totally and permanently disabled for purposes of this discharge if the veteran provides documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs showing that the veteran has been determined to be unemployable due to a service-connected disability. See Veterans Disability Discharge for more information.
Veterans who do not qualify under this condition may still apply for discharge by having a physician complete Section 4 of the discharge application. See For Physicians – Completing the Form.
- How does a physician certify total and permanent disability?
The physician must fully complete Section 4 of the discharge application. See For Physicians – Completing the Form
- Are abbreviations or medical codes allowed on the discharge application?
Medical abbreviations or insurance codes cannot be used to identify or explain the applicant's condition on the application. Applications that include only medical abbreviations or insurance codes will be returned.
- What kind of information must a doctor provide to establish that a borrower is totally and permanently disabled?
The applicant's doctor must fully respond to each of the questions in Section 4 of the discharge application. See For Physicians–Completing the Form. It is not sufficient for an applicant's doctor to merely state the applicant's diagnosis. The Department encourages physicians to provide any additional information that would be helpful in understanding the borrower’s disabling condition(s), such as a list and description of an applicant's medications, responses to medications, surgical procedures undergone or soon to occur, non-surgical treatments, and a history of an applicant's physical examination results, etc.
- What if the physician makes a mistake on the application?
If a physician makes a mistake while entering any information in Section 4 of the discharge application, the physician should initial the correction, particularly when correcting the date the physician signed the discharge application.
- Am I violating privacy laws by sharing my patient's detailed medical information?
No. When your patient signed the discharge application, he or she authorized you to release medical information to the Department. Please see Section 3, which states:
"I authorize any physician, hospital, or other institution having records about the disability that is the basis for my request for a discharge to make information from these records available to the holder(s) of my loan(s) and/or to the Department."