“How I Escaped My Student Loans”

Art: Robin Mead

Many of our readers have had success in finding help with their student loans.  You do not have to be on disability to qualify. On this page you will find:

  • Stories of disability discharges
  • Stories of income based repayment
  • Stories of private student loans (not federal)

For information on disability discharges and other options:

How To Escape The Crushing Weight of Student Loans

Stories of Disability Discharges

After being encouraged by reading this website, I applied for federal student loan discharge. I got notice of discharge in early 2019. I was not receiving Social Security benefits, nor had I applied for them. My doctor filled out the form. They did not ask for additional information, they just approved me, it was so much easier than a SS case, I was flabbergasted. I will have to submit proof of income for 3 years. – Janis H

I was amazed to find out I could get a disability discharge even though I was working and I was not on disability. The guidelines said I was eligible as long as I earned below poverty level in my state. My doctor filled out the form and all my loans were discharged. – KO

My federal student loans have been totally and permanently discharged, pending a three year probationary period. I’m still waiting to see if I will be approved for Social Security disability.  – EK

I applied last year to have them delete my student loans due to my disability. I was approved towards the end of last year. This is from both my undergrad and graduate degrees. I was very relieved. There is no way I can repay them on my disability income. – AK

I am not on disability, but I only work part time because of health issues. My government student loans were $300 per month. I signed up for income-based repayment and now they are $0 per month. The loans will be completely forgiven in seven years. I am planning ahead and spending some of my money now so I don’t run into any tax problems when that happens – KF

My doctor was confused by the term “total and permanent disability” It does not mean you have to be in a wheelchair or disabled forever. If your doctor is confused, show them the definition. It just means you cannot work full time for at least five years because of your disabling symptoms. After showing this to my doctor, he signed the forms and all my loans were discharged. – PS

My federal loans were all discharged. If I recover in the next three years, the loans will magically reappear. After that they are gone forever. – BB

Years ago when I was very ill, my doctor signed a form for me and all of my loans from law school were forgiven. Then years passed and I recovered and went back to work. My loans never came back, so now I am able to work at a small nonprofit that does not pay a lot and I can spend my days fighting for the rights of people who are poor and disabled. – GP

I had my student loans dismissed. Yesterday I found an odd email in my inbox which I almost deleted because I thought it was junk mail: We have not yet received an annual employment earnings document. If you do not submit this, your loans will be reinstated. Yikes! I emailed them a signed, dated letter stating: “This is a letter confirming that I had no income – $00 – during the period of 01/01/2015 to 09/29/2016.” I printed out my simple letter, signed it, took a pic of it and then emailed that. Within a week I heard back that my “appeal was successful.”  I have no assets, so taxes shouldn’t be a problem, but I am looking into filing the right form for this with the IRS this year. – MC

Student loan debts of ALL DISABLED PEOPLE, have been forgiven for a very long time. There is a misconception that this is a new program or a program for veterans. You don’t have to have been approved for Social Security Disability or any other program. I applied last year. My doctor filled out a form confirming that I was Total and Permanently Disabled (disability is expected to last at least 60 months). The loans were taken off my credit report within a month. The whole application and approval process took less than two months. They monitor yearly to see if you remain disabled for three years, then the loans are completely gone. – TK

Stories of Income Based Repayment

My loans were in default. I consolidated all the loans, which brought them out of default without having to make any payments. Then I applied for Income Based Repayment. I work part time, but my income is low, so monthly payment has been $0 for the past eight years. I’m no longer considered in default and don’t have any problems with credit! But I have to plan ahead for taxes when they get forgiven. – OP

Stories of Private Loans

I stopped paying my private student loans years ago. I was sick and had no income at that time. Now so many years have passed that the loans are expired. The zombie debt collectors still call me and even called my sister in another state, but we just hang up on them. I tell everyone: never talk to them or they will record you and use it to make your debt come back.” – NB

I am not on disability, but I have chronic illness and can only work a little. I discharged all my debt in bankruptcy, except they would not let me discharge this one private student loan. The court did not garnish my paycheck because I live below the poverty line. They just let the loan stay there, but did not make me pay it. I wrote the loan company a “cease and desist” letter and told them to stop calling me. They stopped completely! Then one time I tried to call them, and they said they weren’t allowed to talk to me anymore because of my letter. I have three more years to go, then the debt from that loan will expire. – LS

I thought I had no hope of getting private loans discharged. I had heard it was difficult. I went ahead and asked them for their policy on disability discharges and filled out the forms. It worked! All my loans were discharged. – SO

I contacted the student loan company and told them my story. They asked me to send proof of my diagnosis along with a form (filled out by my doctor) stating I could no longer work. It took about 3 months, but my loans were all excused. They will recheck financial status for the next three years. – DV

10 thoughts on ““How I Escaped My Student Loans””

  1. Someone stated that if you’re on income based loan repayments for 7 years, your loans will be rewritten off. This is only true if you’re on some other program like the public service loan repayment program. However, your loan payments CAN be $0 for a long time. You MUST renew this every year, though, do it on time, and make sure everything went through properly. Nelnet messes things up all the time.

    I also want to warn people to turn OFF automatic payments on their loans. If NelNet or whomever take money out because there’s a paperwork mess-up (on their end or yours), they will not give it back and the government will not make them give it back. I lost $2000 this way.


  2. I did the same for my $27k in student loans. Still waiting to see if I’ll win disability. The student loan discharge was pretty easy.


  3. I don’t have enough words to thank you. After reading your post on Federal Student Loans disability discharge, I applied & was approved. Thank you so much. Many blessings.


  4. I’d like to share my experience. I applied for student loan discharge via Nelnet in late September, 2019. I wrote my own answers to the questions on the application form, and submitted them to my primary care physician, along with the form. I used the language from my specialist summaries and compiled it all in one place. My physician re-wrote it on letterhead, signed it, and I submitted the documentation on October 3rd. I received a letter a few weeks later informing me that they would not accept physician letters and that the physician’s answers had to be written in the VERY tiny boxes on the application page. So I typed the text directly on the application PDF, including as much of the original language as I could. I focused only on what made me permanently disabled, unable to stand or sit for long periods of time.

    Within two weeks of submitting the updated form, I was approved for student loan discharge of my entire undergraduate and graduate school student loan amounts. Total application time was exactly 2 months.

    Important points:

    – I applied for student loan discharge BEFORE I applied for social security disability. I believe it was easier for me to get approved because they didn’t base it on social security review periods, but simply on my doctor’s claim that I am totally and permanently disabled.
    – I attached supporting documents, but not too many. A single summary page of my diagnoses and symptoms from each of my specialists (printed from the patient portal), and my own health one-pager including my diagnoses, symptoms, medical team, current treatments, and past treatments I’ve tried.

    Here are the answers my physician gave on the form:

    Describe the severity of the applicant’s impairment, including, if applicable, the phase of the impairment:
    “The patient exhibits extra-glandular, organ manifestations of systemic Sjogren’s sydrome (Stage 2). Her impairment is signifificant and disabling.”

    Limitations on sitting, standing, walking, or lifting:
    “Dysautonomia – Tachycardia, pre-syncope, hypertension, dyspnea, loss of hearing/vision while standing/sitting/ walking. Joint pain and stiffness limits mobility/dexterity”

    Limitations on activities of daily living:
    “Struggles with bathing, cooking, and cleaning. Currently unable to drive due to cognitive changes. Neuropathy
    makes dressing diffificult and painful”

    Residual functionality:
    “Unpredictable. Functionality constantly limited due to chronic autoimmune pain, dysautonomia, constitutional symptoms, with flares requiring bed rest”


    1. Gloria. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I will add your doctor’s form info to one of the other pages so more people will see it. Congratulations. this is so helpful and kind of you to share.


  5. Thank YOU for your helpful site! I’ve shared the “what to do after being approved for SSDI” articles in several groups, and many have said how helpful it is.


  6. Do you know if a parent who has loans and cannot work because they are the primary caregiver of a disabled child can access any relief from student loans?


    1. I’m sorry to say, I’m not aware of any specific programs for this, but if the loans are federal, they can always sign up for income based repayment plans. Some families move to California because parents who cannot work because of caring for a disabled child can be paid a salary by the state there.


  7. Hi there! I am nearing graduation and I am terrified of my student loan payments kicking in because of my chronic illness. I know I will not be able to work full time and am not on disability. I will make above the poverty line, but not enough money to pay for the health insurance I need to cover my health issues and afford to live. Would you be willing to give me any pointers or explain the steps I could take in the right direction? Would love to hear back from you!


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