President Donald Trump on Wednesday directed the Department of Education to find new ways to wipe out remaining student loan payments for nearly 25,000 disabled veterans facing significant debts despite existing relief programs designed to help them.
“The debt of these disabled veterans will be entirely erased. It will be gone. They will sleep well tonight,” Trump told a crowd of veterans at the annual AMVETS convention in Louisville, Ky. “That's hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt held by our severely wounded warriors. It is gone forever.”
Veterans who are 100 percent disabled are already eligible to have their federal student loan debt completely erased, but government officials have struggled to get all of that group to take advantage of the program.
Despite a public education campaign on the assistance over the last year by the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs, about 25,000 veterans eligible for the program still have not signed on. Federal officials say many of those have already defaulted on federal loans, creating additional financial problems.
Earlier this year, Rep. Connor Lamb, D-Pa. and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., each sponsored legislation to make the loan forgiveness automatic, putting the impetus of clearing the debt on federal agencies instead of the veterans.
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday appears to be looking at the same idea. In a separate fact sheet put out by White House officials, they described the sign up process as “too burdensome” and said the goal of the new memorandum is to ensure “disabled veterans have their federal student loan debt discharged with minimal burdens.”
The announcement came amid a wide-ranging speech on veterans and military issues by the commander-in-chief, who touted both his administration’s work in reforming VA policies and Defense Department spending as crucial to national security.
The legislation under consideration in Congress includes loan forgiveness for federal student loans that disabled veterans take out for their children’s education. Trump did not say what the scope of his new order will entail.
White House officials said the average federal debt carried by the disabled veterans is around $30,000.
Veterans who think they may be eligible for the debt forgiveness program can visit the Department of Education web site for more information.
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.