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Student Loan Forgiveness Based on Disability

Posted December 17, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

If you have federal student loans, you may be eligible to have your loans canceled through a “total and permanent disability” (TPD) discharge. A discharge means that you don’t have to repay the loans (with some exceptions—see below).

Which loans are eligible for discharge?

You can get a TPD discharge for William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, Federal Perkins Loans, or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant service obligations. Other loan programs and private loans have their own discharge rules.

Who is eligible for a discharge?

The rules for a federal TPD discharge are similar to Social Security’s eligibility rules, but are even more difficult to meet. Being approved for Social Security disability benefits does not necessarily mean that you will be approved for a TPD discharge. 

For a TPD discharge, you must be unable to do any “substantial gainful activity” (work involving significant physical and/or mental actives) because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted 60 months, can be expected to last for 60 months, is expected to result in death, or is due to a 100% military-service-connected disability.

There are two differences between this definition of disability and Social Security’s definition. First, Social Security requires that your inability to work last, or be expected to last, only one year, not five years. Second, Social Security doesn’t automatically grant disability for service-connected disabilities.

However, those who receive a Social Security disability award with a five-to-seven year review date, meaning that they are classified in a group called “Medical Improvement Not Expected” (MINE), should automatically qualify for a federal loan discharge.

If you do not qualify for Social Security or Veteran’s disability benefits for technical reasons, you can still qualify for a TPD discharge if your doctor certifies that  you are totally and permanently disabled, and that your disability has lasted continuously for five years, is expected to continue for five years, or could result in death. The physician who certifies your TPD discharge application must be a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy/osteopathic medicine (DO) who is licensed to practice in the United States.

How do I apply for a discharge?

If you are currently receiving disability benefits from Social Security, you no longer need to apply for forgiveness for your federal student loans. The U.S. Education Department will do a data match with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and those already receiving disability benefits will automatically have their loans forgiven.

If you are not receiving disability benefits from the SSA, to apply for a TPD discharge you must complete a TPD Discharge Application. Your doctor has to fill out a section of the application stating your diagnosis, the severity of your condition, and the limitations caused by your condition. You submit the application to your loan servicer; you must submit an application for each loan holder. 

Are there any negative effects of applying for a discharge? 

You will have to jump through a few hoops to get federal student loans in the future, and if you request a new loan within three years of your discharge, you will have to resume payments on the discharged loan.

All discharges are now free from federal taxes (until 2025 when Congress will consider renewing the tax provision), but your state might tax you on the amount of the discharged loans. (Contact your state tax office for more information.)

As of March 2021, you are no longer subject to a three-year monitoring period during which your income is monitored. In the past, if you earned over a certain amount of income during the three years after your discharge (not counting disability payments), your obligation to repay the loan could be reinstated. (The level of income allowed was your state’s poverty guidelines for a family of two.) The waiver of the post-discharge monitoring period is expected to remain in place until the end of the COVID-19 emergency relief period on January 31, 2022. The post-discharge monitoring period does not apply to veterans who are 100% disabled.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Disability for Autoimmune Disorders

Posted December 10, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

December 1st was World AIDS Day, an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease. 

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections. The virus can be transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. Within a few weeks of HIV infection, flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and fatigue can occur. Then the disease is usually asymptomatic until it progresses to AIDS. AIDS symptoms include weight loss, fever or night sweats, fatigue, and recurrent infections.

No cure exists for AIDS, but strict adherence to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) can dramatically slow the disease’s progress, prevent secondary infections and complications, and prolong life.

HIV/AIDS and other autoimmune disorders can often greatly impact an individual’s ability to work, and many people who suffer from such illnesses may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. 

Autoimmune diseases cause the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissue. The immune system helps protect the body by attacking potentially harmful antigens, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. in people who have autoimmune diseases, the immune system is unable to determine a difference between harmful antigens and healthy body tissue and attacks otherwise healthy body tissue and antigens. 

Treatment for many individuals involves taking immunosuppressants, which can cause a surge of worsening symptoms once they are discontinued, such as: severe fatigue, joint pain, inflammation, recurrent infections and skin rashes are some of the symptoms my clients inform me of. 

Because there are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, the Social Security evaluation process is dependent on the specific autoimmune disease. Social Security has an entire category of “blue book” listings for various types of autoimmune disorders, including lupus, vasculitis, HIV, and inflammatory arthritis. (https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/14.00-Immune-Adult.htm)

If you do not meet one of the SSA’s listings, you may still be found disabled if you are unable to perform your past work on a full-time basis. The SSA will consider the combined effect of all of your impairments, including the symptoms of your disease, side effects of medications, and symptoms or limitations from any other conditions you may suffers from. Obtaining an opinion from your doctor about your inability to work will generally help as well.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Thomas Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Announces Preliminary Reopening Plan

Posted December 3, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is preparing staff to return to field offices and resume normal, pre-pandemic operations as early as Jan. 3, 2022. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most services have been offered remotely since March 17, 2020. Generally, in-person appointments at Social Security field offices have been limited to critical situations, such as for people who are without food, medicine or shelter and need to apply for benefits or reinstate them.

The SSA’s draft plan for starting to reopen was recently published – click here to read it.  This “pre-decisional” document is not necessarily final, and it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

We know that senior SSA staff will begin to return to in-person work on December 1, 2021, with most other employees beginning their re-entry on January 3, 2022. Some employees will be able to telework full-time, while others will be required to work in person at least part of the time, depending on their job duties, the agency’s needs, and bargaining between SSA and employees’ unions.

The re-entry plan describes masking and physical distancing requirements for employees and visitors to SSA sites, and what actions SSA will take to keep offices as safe as possible, from air filters and hand sanitizer to testing and contract tracing.

We don’t yet know the hours that SSA offices will be open to the public, or the rules for when people will need appointments versus when they can walk in. It is possible that different offices might have different rules, or that the rules might change over time. Just like the process of shifting to telework at the start of the pandemic, the process of shifting back to in-person services nearly two years later is not likely to be completely smooth.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®