How to Escape the Crushing Weight of Student Loans

Art: Robin Mead

If you are disabled or low income, you may have some very good options for dealing with student loans.

Plan Your Escape

🌸 How to Get a Disability Discharge

🌸 How to Get Income Based Repayment

🌸 How to Escape Private Student Loans

🌸How to Eliminate Loans Through Bankruptcy

🌸 How to Escape Tax Problems

🌸 Sample Doctor’s Form for Disability Discharge

🌸 “How I Escaped My Student Loans”

Common Myths

Our readers report that by far the easiest and best way to approach student loans is to apply for a disability discharge. Here are two common myths that often keep people from applying:

If you are NOT on disability: You can still apply for a disability discharge, as long as you are not working or working under a certain amount. You do not need to be on disability to get a disability discharge. We repeat: You do not need to be on disability to get a disability discharge. 

If you ARE on disability: You do not need to have a 5 to 7 year review cycle to get a disability discharge. Once again, you do not need to have a 5 to 7 year review cycle.

There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there about the topic, and many people who are eligible or discharges do not apply for this reason. Please see links above to learn more.

Thanks for Reading

This page is part of the free online guide: How to Be Poor in AmericaArt on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo

40 thoughts on “How to Escape the Crushing Weight of Student Loans”

  1. My husband has spoken to numerous employees at the DOEd over the years, and although we had a discharge application in hand, they insisted that there was no such thing as a disability discharge.

    The other thing we’ve heard is that taxes will be due on the amount forgiven due to a disability discharge, whether or not it is final.

    One last thing: what should he do if his doctor is a jerk and won’t do the paperwork, even though he has several terminal illnesses? Getting a new doctor will be next to impossible, given our insurance.


    1. Whoever told you that about disability discharge was incorrect.

      Please see the page above. The laws for taxes have changed and this is no longer true.

      I’m sorry to hear about your doctor. Many doctors will not do disability paperwork, but they will still fill out the disability discharge papers because these are very simple papers. Many doctor offices have a policy of no disability paperwork, but they will still do student loan discharges.

      Try this: Make an appointment with the doctor and show them how simple a one page form it is, ask if they can do it with you right there in the moment. In addition to the blank form, also Bring a sample completed form that you filled out yourself so that your doctor can see what it is supposed to look like and the basic information is right there in front of them without having to look anything up. Don’t wait till the end of the appointment, bring it up as the first thing and don’t try to talk about anything else during that appointment, so that you are respecting the doctors time and not creating extra time or work outside of the appointment. Point out to them that this is not disability paperwork and you are not applying for disability, in case their office has a policy about disability applications. Also, you can let the doctor know that it only takes 10 minutes to fill out, they can do it right there with you and hand it to you and you will submit it. This way they do not have extra administrative work

      If they still won’t fill out The discharge paperwork, I think You have to find a way to get another doctor sorry I don’t have a better answer.


  2. I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart, I just learned this morning that my student loans ($75k+) have been discharged due to TPD, and it literally would not have happened without your article. I had no idea this was even an option, like you said, they do hide it well enough, but by simply following your guide I was able to get the application submitted and approved within a month! Amazing! I am forever grateful for you, and your desire to share your knowledge with others. You’ve helped so many, now me included!


  3. I just checked in on my status of the TDP online and the status says “application rejected” what does this mean? I submitted my documentation from physician required and followed all instructions. What is rejected mean?


      1. They said that a physician assistant that treats and prescribed me does not count as a person to fill out that form. But that’s who I been seeing for years


      2. They said a physician assistant does not count as a doctor to fill out that TDP form. I have been getting treatment from a PA for it.


      3. I am disabled on SSDI & have large student loan debt ( public & private loans) Now on chemotherapy so this is a bit fuzzy. Tried to find forms to print but could not find them. One I found was the one to put someone as your advocate. I would appreciate your help and you Rock .

        Susan K.


    1. >I just checked in on my status of the TDP online and the status says “application rejected” what does this mean?

      They did that to me. You have to call them up and ask them the reason. In my case the US Dept of Ed didn’t complete paperwork so the servicer Nelnet rejected it. They expect many people not to follow up so they don’t have to grant the discharge. If you follow up and it’s granted they will try to cancel the discharge by rejecting your disability application.


      1. They said a PA (physician assistant) does not count as a physician and rejected it. I don’t know where to go from here. I’m devastated.


          1. I was able to get that signed but I do not know if I should reapply for the TDP with it or submit hoping it processes . Also I got the signature but not the medical license number from the MD. Will that cause a problem?


  4. Deciding whether or not to apply for SSD is an important decision. If you lose the disability process they automatically reinstate the student loans that were cancelled. If you are near retirement you may want to skip the SSD and just wait retirement out.


      1. “Loans are only reinstated if you go back to work.”
        After what time period?

        In June 2019, I submitted paperwork from my doctors saying I was disabled, requesting my federal student loans to be discharged. It was approved in November 2019.

        I applied for SSDI in August 2019 with an onset date of June 2019, and I was approved for SSDI in November 2020.

        Until what date do I have to remain out of work in order for my student loans to NOT be reinstated? I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to work again, though it’s unlikely.

        [Dates are approximate.]


        1. There is a three year monitoring period. If you are working below a certain income limit it will not cause a problem. I’m not sure the limit, you may need to look that up if you work part time.


      2. That’s not true. They do reinstate them if you lose the SSA disability decision. “Can the Department take back or cancel the discharge? During the monitoring period, the Department will cancel the discharge and start collection activity back up on your account at any time within the first three years after it granted you the discharge, if:

        You work, and you earn more than 100% of the poverty limit for a family of two (in 2013, $15,510) OR

        You get a new TEACH grant OR

        You get a new federal student loan OR

        You do not return any of the loan money that you got pre-discharge within 120 days of the date you got the money OR

        SSA sends you a notice that you are no longer totally and permanently disabled, or that your disability review will no longer be the five-year or seven-year review period indicated in your most recent SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI.


        1. Good point. There are two ways to apply: doctor’s form or SSA review cycle. If someone applies based on review cycle, and then loses their review cycle, they can still get a disability discharge, but they might need to reapply for the discharge using the other method. I don’t know if this would cause a new probationary period.


  5. My main resource for getting my student loans discharged and so many other things related to my illness has been “How to get on”. Invaluable


  6. I applied to get my loans discharged in December 2019. By April of this year, they were discharged (though they won’t be permanently discharged for another few years). All I had to do was fill out a one-page application and have my doctor fill one out too (I do receive SSDI but that didn’t factor into my paperwork. More importantly imo, I have a supportive doctor and a diagnosis.) Apply! It was surprisingly straightforward


  7. I read somewhere on this website that a person could get money by cashing in on life insurance policies. Where is that information in this reading. I read that a while back and don’t know what subtitle I saw it under.


    1. There’s some loop holes that they dont tell you about in those types of policies. Be careful and do research. They typically cost an arm and a leg with very little money in the policy.


  8. I’m in the post-hearing phase of my disability. I came across this and I asked my doctor if he could fill the paperwork out and he faxed the papers to the number listed. That was on 1/12/2020 and today I saw on my USPS delivery app I am getting something from Nelnet…… I hope it is good news!


  9. My discharge was approved. I’m just under 2 years away from this now. In the waiting period. Thanks to all who made me aware of this opportunity!


    1. Can you please do a page on the topic of disability for children of agent orange veterans? It’s on the va website and only given if you have one of the spinal diseases


  10. After being encouraged by your infirmation, 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. I think this was better than evidence of SSDI for one reason: there are no reviews, so it cant be revoked! They did not ask for additional information, they just approved me, it was so much easier than a SS case, I was flabbergasted. Maybe it sailed through because they were dealing with a backlog after the government shutdown. I will have to submit proof of income for 3 years. The income cutoff is a bit weird: below poverty level for a 2-person household, no matter what your actual household size is.


  11. I am post-hearing about 49 workdays still waiting for a decision, it has been to the writer and last I checked it is back with the ALJ. But I applied for student loan discharge at on June 17, 2019 and just for my approval with the 3-year monitoring… I am just curious if there is any correlation being approved for this and being approved for SSI/SSDI? Or has anyone noticed any sort of trend?


  12. Nelnet- student loans discharge company
    Not sure when this went into effect but if you tried before with no results try again they have this new program to do what they refused to do before. I havent tried because no insurance to show proof and im tired of getting sick to go to doctor offices that know nothing about my conditions and just want to poison me with their pharma kick back drugs. Got this from the student loan harassers year ago after an hour of me telling them why they will never ever ever receive any payment from me for Im too sick to work, but Id be happy to answer the call when Im down and harass them back, just unleash your bad day up on them when they call, they cant hang up on you 😉 I think I threw in at least 50 “F bombs”. After me telling him how little food I get to eat he then asks well cant my family and friends or boyfriend make my payments, I was like Really??? Dont you think if they gave me money I’d go buy food instead? Hell I dont even gamble but Id gamble the money before ever paying them, this is america just write it off like you wrote it in, or just print more money in what i owe, done. lol


  13. You are doing an incredible service with this blog. There is so much wonderful information here that helps so many. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This site has the best information on pretty much everything.

    Thanks, for ALL of your excellent, easy to read, or short and to the point info that doesn’t suck the life out of you once you’ve finished reading it. And the beautiful artwork which always leaves me feeling happy whenever I see it. 😊


  15. Thank you for sharing! If you don’t mind me asking, who was your clinician who endorsed your student loan discharge and in what state does he/she practice? You may answer those questions in a private email to me if you wish. I am on both SSI and SSDI and have massive student loan debt which I so desperately need to discharge. Yet, I have not been able to find a clinician willing to assist in these matters. Though I am on an ICR with $0.00 monthly payments, I want my loans discharged primarily to improve my eligibility for suitable housing options for me, given my disability and am even willing to travel out of state to find such a clinician if necessary. Thank you for your consideration of my inquiries!


    1. Hi Allan,

      I have not done this myself, but have met many others who have.

      Some doctors don’t like paperwork. Have you tried setting up a special appointment just for this and bringing your doctor the form?

      Also, it helps if you can prepare as much info as you can ahead of time, for anything that needs to go on the form – that way the doc may be able to complete it within a few minutes.

      Most doctors are willing to do something that takes less than five minutes if you ask nicely and don’t give them homework (if they can complete it during the visit).

      If your doc still won’t help you, you might want to look for a new doctor. Since you are on ssi, you want a supportive doctor anyway, in case you need support during your disability reviews.

      However… Maybe I am missing something, but… I don’t see how this will make any difference for housing? If your on IBR now and it’s working for you, that won’t cause problems with your credit.

      hope this helps. 🙂


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