How to Make Student Loans Disappear Like Magic (Disability Discharges)

Art: Robin Mead

If you are disabled, you may be able to apply for a disability discharge. Disability discharges can make all your student loans magically go away!

You do not need to be approved for Social Security disability to get a discharge. If you are currently applying for disability, it’s better to put in application for discharge now, otherwise you risk that your backpay or checks may get garnished.

The information below is for federal loans. For private loans, some companies have their own discharge policies. Information on this page may still be helpful, but please check your companies policy, as it may be different.

How to Get Approved the Easy, Easy, Easy Way

It is very easy to get approved for a disability discharge. All you need is a one-page form filled out by your doctor. That’s it!

Some of our readers are reporting that they had a lot of trouble because they spent a long time researching regulations and submitting all kinds of documents. Then they kept getting denied and it took weeks or months and caused a lot of frustration.

Don’t do this! It will make you crazy and cause you to get denied. If you want to get approved the easy way, you need one page from one doctor. That is it! Don’t send other stuff.

The doctor’s form looks like this: TPD_Application (Please note: This form is just a sample. It could change. Please check link below for most recent version).

Where to Apply

Start here: disability discharges for your loans.

Do I Qualify? 

To qualify for a discharge, you must show that you are “totally and permanently disabled.”

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be in a wheelchair or in a coma. Most disabled people qualify. Many of our readers who were not yet approved for disability also qualified. See below for a definition of what they mean by disabled.

How Do I Prove I Am Disabled?

There are two ways to prove this:

Option One: Doctor Form Method. Easy and works for everyone. You can ask your doctor to fill out a one-page form. Done!

Option Two: Review Cycle Method. This way does not work for everyone. To get approved this way, you will need to be approved for Social Security disability, plus you will need to be assigned a 5-7 year review cycle. If this is the case for you, you might not need to do anything more. Social Security should automatically identify that you can get your loan discharged and they may do it for you automatically without any work on your part. More about how this works is here:

Am I Totally and Permanently Disabled?

Some doctors think this means you must be in a wheelchair and disabled forever. Not true! If your doctor is unsure, you can show them the definition of total disability for student loans:

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; or
  • 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’s Better the Form Method or the Review Cycle Method?

The vast majority of our readers were approved based on doctor’s form. This is the easier way because it applies to everyone. But there is a catch: Many doctor’s don’t like paperwork.

Asking Your Doctor for a Form

We strongly suggest that you set up an appointment just for this, bring the form, and sit with your doctor while form is being filled out. Doctors are MUCH more likely to do paperwork if you do it during an office visit.

Let them know at the beginning of the visit that this is the only reason you are there today, so you don’t waste precious time talking about other things.

Tip: Some doctor’s offices are instructed not to allow disability paperwork. Don’t tell the office staff that you are there for disability paperwork. Sometimes they will refuse to give you an appointment!

Do I Need to Do Anything to Prepare for the Doctor’s Visit?

One: It does not hurt to print and bring the definition of “totally and permanently disabled” listed above. You can have this on hand in case your doctor asks about it.

Two: Fill out your name, contact information, and social security number on both pages of the form before you get there. This gives the doctor one less thing to have to do.

Three: Optional: If you wish, you could also write down and bring a separate piece of paper where you write down your opinion on each question. Some doctor’s find it helpful to see the patient’s view of their limitations. Be sure to keep it very brief or it may overwhelm your doctor and they may stop being willing to help. Ideally, no more than 1-2 sentences for each question on the form.

Sample Form

Gloria was kind enough to share a copy of what her doctor wrote: Sample Doctor’s Form for Disability Discharge for Student Loans

Will I Be Taxed?

A new law was passed, if your loans are discharged after 2018, you will not have tax problems. The new law only applies to disability discharges. Discharges from income-based repayment plans will still be taxed. There are no longer charging taxes for a disability discharge. 

How Do I Get Approved? What Should I Include? 

Readers report that the process of applying for a discharge was relatively simple. They only needed to have their doctor fill out the one page form. It was not necessary to attach any medical records or letters.

In fact, one reader tried to submit doctor’s letters and her application was rejected and sent back. They wanted all information to be written directly on the form only.

After getting approved, there is a three year monitoring period. You may be asked to fill out some follow-up forms to verify that you have not recovered and gone back to working full time.

Note: This information applies to federal loan discharges. We have not heard from many people who have tried discharging private loans, so we do not know if it might be helpful to include more documentation for private loans.

Important Tips

🌻 Three years probation. Be careful if you think your condition may improve or you may go back to work in the next three years. There is a three-year probationary period.

🌻 Once per lifetime. You can only get a disability discharge once in your life. If you go back to school after your discharge, you cannot get new loans discharged because of disability.

🌻 Check your mail and keep your address updated: If you are receiving notifications by email, make sure to read these too. You will need to return a forms to confirm your income for three years. If you miss the form, you might need to start the process again!

🌻 If you were disabled while in school you may not be approved. If you are on disability while you are in school, you may or may not be eligible for a disability discharge. We could not find any specific rules addressing this. However, we heard from one reader who applied for a discharge this way, got denied, appealed, and got denied again. The decision was based on the Master Promissory Note, which states that you are eligible for a discharge if you become disabled. Her understanding of the decision was: if you develop a new disability or your condition significantly worsens, you may be granted a discharge, but if your condition is the same as when you were in school, it’s possible the discharge will not be approved.

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 disabilitybut 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

Learn more

Another option is income based repayment plans. There are also other options for handling private loans:

How To Escape The Crushing Weight of Student Loans

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons:

12 thoughts on “How to Make Student Loans Disappear Like Magic (Disability Discharges)”

  1. Has anyone received word of automatic disability discharge of their student loan? Finally! Dept. of Ed is finally staying in their own lane and leaving disability determinations to the SSA.


  2. What about deaf people with no physical disabling conditions other than being deaf? I do receive SSD but the review cycle is less than the required 5 to 7 years so that option is out. The only option would be to get my doctor to fill out section 4 of the TPD application. I am in my early 60’s and have had my loans “based on income” and haven’t had to pay student loans since the early 90’s — they are all on forbearance. Due to the CV, all income reviews have been postponed to later this year (2021). So the question is, can a deaf person (from birth) be qualified as totally and permanently disabled just by being deaf?


      1. Thank you!

        Is there a sample copy of one that was filled out by a deaf person’s doctor? It’d be enormously helpful because as you can imagine, being deaf doesn’t stop them from physical impairments, they just can’t hear. The key is I’ve been deaf since birth (as I wrote above, that’s more than 60 continuous months!). I would like to be able to explain to the doctor that being deaf means the disability will never “improve.” Which technically means permanently disabled. Just need some clarification and a sample copy would be great! That will give me much more confidence is “guiding” my doctor with this.



          1. Thank you – appreciate your response. Yes it is a very simple form, I totally agree but there are all these questions about physical abilities to move, get up, care for the self, etc and I can do all of those things. Sounds like all I have to do is basically say I am profoundly deaf and that it is a permanent disability, not expecting to improve for the rest of my life. That’s basically the truth – the doctor will have to put N/A in all of those other boxes where physical activities are limited because I really don’t have any other medical conditions except that I am deaf. Not sure how that will turn out but I’m guessing it’s worth a try!


    1. Starting September 2021 TPD applications are no longer required for a disability discharge. Borrowers identified through existing data match with SSA will have their loans automatically discharged. Starting last March the US Department of Education stopped asking borrowers already placed in their 3-year monitoring period for information about their income. Negotiations to terminate the 3-year monitoring period altogether will take place sometime this month (October). For details see

      Cheers ~ Sheryl


      1. Thank you so much for this helpful information. I really appreciate that you took the time and provided a link. This is great news.

        We will update the page. I want to make sure that people know that many people will still have to fill out the forms, it is only people in that specific cycle who will get automatically approved. There are other people that can still get approved the old fashion way by having their doctor fill the forms.

        Thank you again.


      2. Sheryl:

        Thanks much for the update and a link to the awesome article. I have seen it before; however, like Sleepygirl commented on Oct 17, 2021, my understanding is that a match at SSA is only made with those on a 5 to 7 year medical review cycle. Mine is every three years despite my permanent disability (profound deafness)! Doesn’t make sense does it?

        So it looks like I am going to have to go the route of a medical doctor certifying that I am permanently disabled to qualify for the loan discharges.

        Fortunately I found a medical doctor willing to do it with proof of deafness (i.e. a recent hearing test from an audiologist who is actually a doctor of audiology but is not an MD!).

        Thanks again Sheryl.


  3. Can my therapist fill out this form? He is my primary mental health professional. My only one, actually -but I have been with him for years. He is not a physician, though, and the form has “physician” all over it. But he is licensed of course, and a PhD, fwiw.


  4. I think mine recently got cancelled after having to apply for it a few years ago. I no longer see them listed when I check my credit.


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