The federal government will actively seek out permanently disabled people with student debt and help them through the process of having their debt forgiven, the White House announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Previous changes to make the debt forgiveness program more accessible were announced four years ago, allowing applicants to use their Social Security status to apply. But Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said it hadn't been taken up by many because they weren't aware of it, and because of a complicated application process, The Associated Press reports:
Mitchell said one woman who had been suffering with side effects from breast cancer treatment that left her permanently disabled tried repeatedly to get her debt discharged — a process that took seven years.
"That's not how government should work," Mitchell said in an interview. "These are people who are struggling with health issues. We want to take one worry off their plate."
Letters will be sent out to 387,000 eligible people starting next week, with simple forms requiring just a signature to apply for the program instead of the complicated process that's in place currently, the Washington Post reports. If applicants are accepted, they'll be monitored for three years to check that their status is legitimate.
The move could prevent hundreds of thousands from having their social security benefits and tax returns withheld because of student loan defaults.