More than 47,000 troops and veterans will see some of their federal student loan debt erased thanks to new policies announced by the Department of Education on Friday.
“Brave men and women in uniform serving our country can now focus on doing their jobs and coming home safely, not filling out more paperwork to access their hard-earned benefits,” Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray said in a statement announcing the change.
“We will seek to reduce red tape for service members wherever possible.”
Under previously passed legislation, any troops who deployed to overseas combat zones and hostile fire areas could have interest on many federal student loans waived. The rules include student loans first paid out after Oct. 1, 2008.
For some individuals, that extra interest can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. But until now, getting those additional fees waived required lengthy paperwork proving past military service and deployments.
Department of Education officials said fewer than 5,000 service members and veterans requested the interest fees be waived in recent years.
The new policy change shifts the burden from student veterans and troops to federal officials. Under a new data sharing agreement announced by the Departments of Defense and Education, federal processors can identify federal student loan borrowers who serve on active duty by matching records to DOD’s personnel files.
“As a result, the department can automatically provide the student loan interest benefit to eligible service members,” education officials said in a statement. “Today’s announcement means that service members are not required to take any action to receive the interest rate benefit.”
Loan recipients should see the changes appear automatically in their accounts. Individuals with questions can contact Department of Education officials with questions regarding the benefit.
The move does not wipe out the entirety of troops and veterans student loan debt, only the extra interest fees. Earlier this week, administration officials announced plans to cancel all student loan debt for about 300,000 severely disabled Americans.
In a statement, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., praised the announcement as “necessary relief for those who served our country so honorably.”
More information on the changes is available on the Department of Education website.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.