• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    About Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

    Who is Nelnet?

    Nelnet assists the U.S. Department of Education (called “the Department” throughout this site) in administering the total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge process. We manage this site and communicate with borrowers on behalf of the Department about TPD discharges.

    The terms "borrower," “you,” and “your” are used throughout this site to refer to any TPD applicant, including individuals who are applying for discharge of a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program service obligation. The terms “we,” “us,” and “our” are used to refer to the Nelnet.

    What is TPD discharge?

    A TPD discharge relieves you from having to repay or comply with obligations associated with the following types of federal student aid because you are totally and permanently disabled:

    ● Loans made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program,

    ● Loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program,

    ● Loans made under the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program

    ● A TEACH Grant, which requires you to complete a service obligation

    Before your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation can be discharged, you must submit an application for discharge and provide information to us to show that you are totally and permanently disabled. We will evaluate the information and determine if you qualify for a TPD discharge.

    Depending on your situation, you will attach the supporting documentation to your application, have your physician complete Section 4 of your application, or, in some cases, submit your application without documentation.

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

    You can demonstrate 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 have a service-connected disability (or disabilities) that is 100% disabling or that you are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating;

    2 – If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, we regularly gather documentation automatically from the Social Security Administration (SSA) about whether you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits. If you receive those benefits and have been determined by SSA to be totally and permanently disabled, we will contact you and ask you to submit an application, but you do not need to provide documentation of your SSA benefits. If you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits and we did not contact you about a TPD discharge, you can apply and provide documentation of your SSA notice of award for SSDI, SSI benefits or a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY form 2459) 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 licensed medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy 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 regarding the supporting documentation that you must submit with your TPD discharge application. To review the supporting documentation requirements, click here.

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

    Contact us regarding your intent to apply. You can do this 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. You may also start your TPD discharge application online. If you want to start your application online, click here.

    Once you have told us you intend to apply or have returned a TPD application for a TPD discharge, we will take the following actions:

    ● First, we will provide you with the information you need to apply for a TPD discharge by sending you a TPD application.

    ● Second, we will identify your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation that may qualify for a TPD discharge.

    ● Finally, we 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 you will not be required to make payments on your loans for 120 days.

    NOTE: If any of your loans are in default and payments are being collected by wage garnishment and/or Treasury Offset, the garnishment or offset will continue. If your request for TPD discharge is approved, the wage garnishments and/or Treasury Offset Payments will be discontinued.

    The suspension of collection activity will give you time to complete and submit the TPD discharge application. If we do not receive your application within 120 days, you will again be required to make payments.

    I want to apply for a TPD discharge, but I am also considering consolidating my loans or I am already in the process of consolidating my loans. What should I do?

    If you have not yet submitted an application for a consolidation loan, you should not do so until after you have submitted your TPD discharge application and we have made a determination of your eligibility for TPD discharge. If your application is approved and your loan(s) are discharged, you will no longer need to consolidate. If your application is denied, you can then submit an application for a consolidation loan.

    If you have already submitted a consolidation loan application and it is being processed, you should contact the federal servicer that is processing your application for a consolidation loan and tell the servicer to suspend processing until after you have submitted your TPD discharge application and we have determined whether you are eligible for TPD discharge. If we approve your application, you can tell the federal loan servicer to cancel your consolidation request. If we deny your application, you can tell the federal loan servicer to move forward with the consolidation process.

    Requesting a TPD Discharge

    How do I apply for a TPD Discharge?

    To apply for a TPD discharge, you may:

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

    You will need to complete Section 3 of the application. You will then attach your supporting documentation to your application or have a physician complete Section 4 of your application. Finally, send your discharge application and any 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 will need to complete sections 1 through 3 of the blank application. Next, attach the supporting documentation to your application if applicable or have a physician complete Section 4 of your application. Finally, send the discharge application to us along with any supporting documentation.
    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, complete sections 1 through 3. Next, either attach the supporting documentation to your application if applicable or have a physician complete Section 4 of your application. Finally, send the discharge application to us along with any supporting documentation.

    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.

    Where do I send my completed TPD discharge application?

    When your TPD discharge application is complete, mail your application along with any supporting documentation to us at the following address:

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

    ● Fax your application and supporting documentation to us at 303.696.5250

    ● Email your application and supporting documentation to us at DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net

    ● Submit your application and supporting documentation to us on our website https://secure.disabilitydischarge.com.

    Can my representative apply on my behalf and assist 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.

    If you are unable to sign the Applicant Representative Designation form, your representative may sign the form in your place. The signed form must be accompanied by a power of attorney document.

    To download and/or print the Applicant Representative Designation form, click here.

    My federal student loans are with several loan holders. Do I need to complete more than one TPD discharge application?

    No. You only need to submit one TPD discharge application to cover all of your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation. When we receive your discharge application, we will contact the holders of all of your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation and keep them informed throughout the process.

    I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. Does that mean I automatically qualify for a TPD discharge of my federal student loans?

    Not necessarily. The standard for TPD discharge purposes only accepts some Social Security Administration disability determinations. Eligibility for Social Security disability benefits does not mean you are automatically eligible for TPD discharge. We receive documentation of your SSA disability benefits automatically and will contact you if you qualify for a TPD discharge. However, you can also apply and submit:

    ● Your SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits if the award statement shows that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination; Or a Benefits Planning Query (Form 2459). The Benefits Planning Query will show when your next review is scheduled to occur.

    What types of doctors may certify my total and permanent disability on the TPD discharge application?

    If you choose to demonstrate that you are totally and permanently disabled through a physician’s certification, only a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.) licensed to practice in the United States (including 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) may certify your total and permanent disability.

    Other medical professional who are not eligible to certify your total and permanent disability include: chiropractors, herbalists, physician assistants (PAs), registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), Ph.D.s, and residents in training who are not yet fully licensed M.D.s or D.O.s. A podiatrist or psychologist cannot certify the TPD discharge application, unless he or she is also an M.D. or a D.O.

    We cannot process TPD discharge applications that are signed by anyone other than a licensed M.D. or D.O.

    I live outside the United States. Does my physician have to be licensed in the United States?

    Yes. You will need to have your TPD discharge application completed by a physician who is licensed in the United States. Your local physician may work with a physician in the United States to help you apply for discharge.

    How Disability Is Determined

    What happens after I mail my TPD discharge application?

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

    ● First, we 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 you will not be required to make payments on your loans for 120 days.

    NOTE: If any of your loans are in default and payments are being collected by wage garnishment and/or Treasury Offset, the garnishment or offset will continue. Once your request for TPD discharge is approved, the wage garnishments and/or Treasury Offset Payments will be discontinued.

    ● Second, we will 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 we will determine whether you qualify for a discharge.

    What happens if we approve your TPD discharge request?

    This will depend on how you choose to demonstrate that you are totally and permanently disabled.

    If we approve your request because you submitted VA documentation, the following will occur:

    ● We will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval.

    ● We 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.

    ● Your loan holders will discharge your loans.

    If we approve your request because you submitted or we received SSA documentation or you submitted a physician certification, the following will occur:

    ● We will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval.

    ● We will instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received after the date we originally received the documentation used to approve your request.

    ● Your loan holders will transfer your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation to us for discharge. You will then be subject to a 3-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. Click here for detailed information regarding the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period requirements.

    ● We will reinstate your obligation to repay your discharged loans or complete your discharged TEACH Grant service obligation if at any time during the 3-year monitoring period you do not meet the requirements of the post-discharge monitoring period.

    What happens if we deny your TPD discharge request?

    ● We will notify you of the denial by mail.

    ● We will instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans.

    ● The letter that we send 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 we should consider.

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

    You denied my application. Can I appeal the determination?

    If you have questions about why we denied your application or believe there is other information that should be considered, please contact us to discuss. You can call us seven days a week at 888.303.7818 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern), or you can email us at DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net.

    If you provide us with additional information that supports your eligibility for discharge within one year of the date of your denial letter, we will reevaluate your application for a TPD discharge without requiring you to submit a new application.

    If you do not provide us with additional information that supports your eligibility for discharge within one year of the date of your denial letter, but you still want us to reevaluate your eligibility for discharge, you must submit a new TPD discharge application.

    I have a partial disability that limits my ability to work. I am able to work, although on a very limited basis. Am I eligible for TPD discharge?

    That you are able to work at all does not always affect whether you are eligible for a discharge. If you can submit documentation that demonstrates that you met the definition of total and permanent disability, then you are eligible. See here for more information about the documentation that can result in your receiving a total and permanent disability discharge.

    I have a disability that prevents me from working in the occupation for which I was trained. Can I get a discharge?

    That you cannot work in the occupation for which you are trained does not affect whether you are eligible for a discharge. If you can submit documentation that demonstrates that you met the definition of total and permanent disability, then you are eligible. See here for more information about the documentation that can result in your receiving a total and permanent disability discharge.

    How does the Department monitor my earnings from employment?

    If we discharged your loans because you submitted SSA documentation or a physician certification, you will be subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period that begins on the date we received your TPD documentation. There are requirements that you must meet during the post-discharge monitoring period.

    One of the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period requirements is that your annual employment earnings cannot exceed the Poverty Guideline amount for a family of two in your state, regardless of your actual family size. We will monitor this requirement through your annual completion of a form that documents your earnings from employment. We will send the form to you when it is time for you to complete it.

    For detailed information regarding the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period requirements, click here.

    My employment earnings exceeded the poverty guidelines for a family of two in the calendar year during which I submitted my TPD discharge application, but this was the result of employment that occurred before I became disabled. What should I do?

    If you are subject to the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period, we will monitor your annual earnings from employment for a 12-month period that begins on the date we received your TPD documentation. This period is different from a calendar year. We will provide the exact dates of the period for which we are requesting earnings information on the form that you will complete annually to document your earnings. If needed, we will assist you in documenting the period during which you earned the income on the form. You may need to supply pay stubs and/or a letter from your employer to verify when you received the earnings.

    I receive disability and/or retirement pay. Will that count as employment earnings?

    No. Only earnings received from employment matter during your post-discharge monitoring period. However, depending on the documentation you submit, you may be required to provide documentation of the disability/retirement pay to show that the income was not from work.

    Discharge Processing

    How long does the TPD discharge application process take?

    Our review of your TPD discharge application typically takes less than 30 days to complete. However, incomplete discharge applications and, if applicable, the response time of your physician can delay our review process.

    We will notify you in writing if there is a delay in processing your TPD discharge application and let you know what information is needed for us to resume processing.

    How do I know if I will be subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period?

    If you are approved for a TPD discharge based on SSA documentation or a physician’s certification, you will be subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period that begins on the date the discharge is approved.

    If you are approved for a TPD discharge based on VA documentation, you will not be subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period.

    If I’m subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period, what will happen during the monitoring period?

    We will monitor specific items to ensure that you continue to qualify for a TPD discharge. These items include your annual earnings from employment, your receipt of new federal student loans, and, if we approved your discharge because of SSA documentation, changes in your SSA disability determination. You will have responsibilities during this monitoring period.

    We will reinstate your obligation to repay your discharged loans or complete your discharged TEACH Grant service obligation if at any time during the 3-year monitoring period:

    ● You have annual employment earnings that exceed the Poverty Guideline amount for a family of two in your state, regardless of your actual family size;

    ● You receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant;

    ● A disbursement of a Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant that you received before the discharge date is made, and you do not ensure the return of the full amount of the disbursement within 120 days of the disbursement date; or

    ● You receive a notice from the SSA stating that you are no longer totally and permanently disabled, or that your disability review will no longer be the 5-year or 7-year review period indicated in your most recent SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits.

    ● We receive notice from SSA that you are no longer in a MINE (Medical Improvement Not Expected) with a review cycle of 5 to 7 years

    In addition, during the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period, you must promptly notify or respond to us if:

    ● You receive annual earnings from employment that exceed the Poverty Guideline amount for a family of two in your state, regardless of your actual family size;

    ● There is a change in your address or telephone number;

    ● You receive a request to provide the Department with documentation of your annual earnings from employment; or

    ● You receive a notice from the SSA that you are no longer totally and permanently disabled, or that your disability review will no longer be the 5-year or 7-year review period indicated in your most recent SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits.

    If we grant a TPD discharge of your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation, you will not be eligible to receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant in the future unless:

    ● You obtain a certification from a physician that you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity; and

    ● You sign a statement acknowledging that the new loan or TEACH Grant service obligation cannot be discharged in the future on the basis of any injury or illness present at the time the new loan or TEACH Grant is made, unless your condition substantially deteriorates so that you are again totally and permanently disabled.

    In addition, if you request a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant during the 3-year post‑discharge monitoring period described earlier, you must resume repayment on the previously discharged loans or acknowledge that you are once again subject to the terms of your TEACH Grant service obligation before you can receive the new loan or TEACH Grant.

    If I’m subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period and my obligation to repay my federal student loans or complete my TEACH Grant service obligation must be reinstated, what will happen?

    If your obligation to repay your federal student loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation is reinstated, you will again be responsible for repaying your loans or completing your TEACH Grant service obligation. However, you will not be required to pay interest that would have accrued on the loans during the time your loans were discharged due to total and permanent disability.

    If your obligation to repay your federal student loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation is reinstated, we will notify you of the reinstatement by U.S. Mail and return your loans to the status that existed at the time you applied for a TPD discharge. The notice of reinstatement will include:

    ● The reason for reinstatement

    ● An explanation that the first payment due date on the reinstated loans will be no earlier than 60 days after the date of the notification of reinstatement

    ● Information on how you may contact us if you have questions about the reinstatement or believe that our determination was based on incorrect information

    How will I know if I am eligible to receive a refund?

    If you are approved for a TPD discharge, we will instruct your loan holder(s) to return any loan payments received after the date we receive your SSA documentation, physician certification, or the effective date of the VA’s disability determination to the person who made the payments. Your loan holder will calculate the amount of your refund and issue the refund to the appropriate parties.

    Are there any tax implications after approval and discharge of my federal student loans?

    Yes. If we approve your discharge because of VA documentation, we report the discharge of any loan debt totaling $600.00 or more to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the year that the loan was discharged. If we approve your discharge because of SSA documentation or a physician’s certification, we report the discharge of any loan debt totaling $600.00 or more to the IRS for the year in which you completed the three-year monitoring period. If we report the discharge to the IRS, we will send you a 1099-C for the tax year that we sent it to the IRS. The amount of the discharged debt will be considered income for federal tax purposes and possibly for state tax purposes. You may want to consult with a tax professional to determine how this may affect your personal taxes.

    What happens if I want to return to school and receive new loans after receiving a TPD discharge?

    If we grant a TPD discharge of your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation, you will not be eligible to receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant in the future unless:

    ● You obtain a certification from a physician that you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity; and

    ● You sign a statement acknowledging that the new loan or TEACH Grant service obligation cannot be discharged in the future on the basis of any injury or illness present at the time the new loan or TEACH Grant is made, unless your condition substantially deteriorates so that you are again totally and permanently disabled.

    In addition, if you are approved for TPD discharge based on SSA documentation or a physician’s certification, and you request a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant during your 3-year post‑discharge monitoring period, you must resume repayment on the previously discharged loans or acknowledge that you are once again subject to the terms of your TEACH Grant service obligation before you can receive the new loan or TEACH Grant.

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