I’m disabled. Can my student loans be canceled?

Q. I have been totally disabled since 2011 and in 2016 when I turned 65 my disability switched to Social Security retirement benefits. I understand that a student loan forgiveness is underway for people with disabilities. I am now on the verge of turning 70. Will I be eligible for this program and how do I get started?

– uncertain

A. We are sorry to hear about your health problems.

There may be financial assistance for you.

Federal student loans such as William D. Ford Direct Federal Loans, Federal Family Education Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans may be eligible for forgiveness in the event the borrower is totally and definitively invalid, said Steven Gallo, chartered accountant and personal finance specialist at US Financial Services in Fairfield.

He said there are three different ways to demonstrate a disability: through the US Department of Veterans Affairs, with a medical certificate, or through the Social Security Administration, which Gallo says seems like your best option.

“Borrowers who are entitled to Social Security disability insurance and their award notice shows that they will not be subject to disability exam for five years or more will be considered permanently disabled for loan forgiveness purposes, ”he said. “From your story, that certainly appears to be the case.”

The question now is why you have waited so long to apply and how Social Security will consider your case.

Gallo said the only way to find out was to apply and let Social Security make the decision.

To do this you can go to DisabilityDischarge.com and print the app as a PDF or use the interactive online tool provided therein, he said. You can also call Nelnet, the service provider that processes total and permanent discharge requests for the government at (888) 303-7818.

“The process can be cumbersome and based on government data, only 0.5% of borrowers are eligible for debt relief, but it certainly looks like you have a strong case,” Gallo said.

Send your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes on Bamboo column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Register for NJMoneyHelp.comof weekly electronic newsletter.

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