• Total and Permanent Discharge (TPD) 101

    Who Assists The Department With TPD Discharge?

    Nelnet assists the U.S. Department of Education (called “the Department” throughout this site) in administering the TPD discharge process. Nelnet manages this site and communicates with borrowers on behalf of the Department concerning TPD discharge requests.

    The terms "borrower," “you,” and “your” are used throughout this site to refer to any TPD discharge applicant, including individuals who are applying for discharge of a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program service obligation. The terms “we,” “us,” and “our” are used to refer to Nelnet.

    What Is TPD Discharge?

    A TPD discharge relieves you from having to repay a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, and/or Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program loan or complete a TEACH Grant service obligation on the basis of your total and permanent disability. Before your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation can be discharged, you must provide information to the Department to show that you are totally and permanently disabled. The Department will evaluate the information and determine if you qualify for a TPD discharge.

    If you think you might qualify and want to apply for a TPD discharge, you must provide the information the Department needs to make a determination by completing a TPD discharge application and gathering supporting documentation that shows you are totally and permanently disabled. Depending on your situation, you will either attach the supporting documentation to your application or have your physician complete Section 4 of your application. Once everything is complete, you’ll mail the discharge application and, if required, the supporting documentation to us.

    I haven’t applied for a TPD discharge, but I received a letter saying that I may be eligible. Why?

    We have agreements with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that allow us to proactively determine whether you may qualify for a TPD discharge. If we determine that you may qualify, we will contact you to let you know what you need to do to request a discharge.

    The following sections outline the qualifications for TPD discharge and explain what will happen when the Department makes its determination.

    How Do I Show That I’m Totally And Permanently Disabled?

    You can show that you are totally and permanently disabled in one of the following three ways:

    1 – If you are a veteran, and we have received information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) indicating that you have a service-connected disability (or disabilities) that is 100% disabling or that you are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating, we will contact you and explain how you may apply for a TPD discharge, but you will not need to provide documentation of your VA determination. We regularly receive information from the VA identifying veterans who may qualify for TPD discharge. If you are a veteran and you have a service connected disability (or disabilities) that is 100% disabling or are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating, but we did not contact you about a TPD discharge, you can apply and provide documentation from the VA showing that you have a service connected disability (or disabilities) that is 100% disabling or that you are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating, that includes the effective date of the VA’s determination.

    2 – If we have received information from the Social Security Administration (SSA) indicating that you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination, we will contact you and explain how you may apply for a TPD discharge, but you will not need to submit documentation of your SSA disability determination. We regularly receive information from SSA identifying individuals who may qualify for TPD discharge.

    If you receive SSDI or SSI benefits and your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination but we did not contact you about a TPD discharge, you can apply and provide documentation of your SSA notice of award for SSDI, SSI benefits or a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY form 2459) stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination; or

    3 – You can submit a certification from a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.) who is licensed to practice in the United States that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:

    • Can be expected to result in death;
    • Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or
    • Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

    Each option for showing that you are totally and permanently disabled has specific requirements for the supporting documentation that you must submit with your TPD discharge application. To review the supporting documentation requirements, click here.

    What Should I Do If I Want To Apply For A TPD Discharge?

    You should let us know that you want to apply. You can do this by phone or email.

    Phone: 888.303.7818

    Office Hours:

    Monday - Friday 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM (ET)

    Saturday 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM (ET)

    Sunday Closed

    Email: DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net

    Another way to let us know that you want to apply is to start your TPD discharge application online. If you want to start your application online, click here.

    When you let us know that you want to apply for a TPD discharge, we will take the following actions:

    • First, we will provide you with the information you need to apply for a TPD discharge.
    • Second, we will review our records and identify your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation that may qualify for a TPD discharge.
    • Finally, we will contact your loan holders and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans for a period of up to 120 days. This means that during the 120-day period you will not be required to make payments on your loans.

    The suspension of collection activity will give you time to complete the TPD discharge application and return it to us for processing. If we do not receive your application within the 120-day period, your loan holders will resume collection activity on your loans, and you will again be required to make payments.

    Can My Representative Apply On My Behalf And Help Me Throughout The Process?

    Yes, your representative can complete and submit your TPD discharge application on your behalf, and assist you throughout the discharge process. However, you and your representative must complete an Applicant Representative Designation form. We must receive and process this form before we can work with your representative. You must submit this form even if you have a power of attorney for your representative.

    To download and/or print the Applicant Representative Designation form, click here.

    What Happens After I Apply?

    After we receive your TPD discharge application, we will take the following actions:

    • First, we’ll contact the holders of your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation and instruct them to suspend collection activity on your loans while we determine your eligibility for discharge. This means that you will not be required to make payments on your loans while we evaluate your discharge application.
    • NOTE: If any of your loans are in default and payments are being collected by wage garnishment and/or Treasury Offset, the garnishment or offset will continue. If your request for TPD discharge is approved, the wage garnishments and/or Treasury Offset Payments will be discontinued.

    • Second, we will review the TPD discharge application that you submit along with any supporting documentation to ensure that the application is complete, and that it includes information that indicates you may qualify for a discharge.
    • Finally, once we have received all required documentation and have determined that you appear to meet the eligibility requirements for a TPD discharge, we will forward your request on to the Department for a final decision.

    What Happens If I Apply Based On VA Determination Of Unemployability Due To Service-Connected Disability?

    The Department will evaluate the required documentation we received from VA or that you submitted and either approve or deny your TPD discharge request.

    Approval

    If the Department approves your discharge request, we will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval. We will also instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received on or after your disability date to the person who made the payments. For this purpose, your “disability date” is the effective date of the VA’s determination that you have a service-connected disability (or disabilities) that is 100% disabling or an individual unemployability rating.

    After being notified that the Department has approved your discharge request, your loan holders will discharge your loans.

    Denial

    If the Department denies your discharge request, we will notify you of the denial by mail. We will also instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans. The letter that we send will include the reason for the denial and information on how you may request a re-evaluation of your application by submitting additional documentation from the VA.

    What Happens If I Apply Based on SSA Documentation or Physician’s Certification?

    The Department will evaluate the required documentation we received from SSA or that you submitted and either approve or deny your TPD discharge request.

    Approval

    If the Department approves your TPD discharge request, the following will occur:

    • We will notify you and the holders of your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation of the approval.
    • We will instruct the loan holders to return any loan payments received after your disability date to the person who made the payments. For this purpose, your “disability date” is the date we received the documentation of your SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits, or the date the physician signed your discharge application, depending on the type of documentation you provided to show that you are totally and permanently disabled.
    • After being notified that the Department has approved your discharge request, your loan holders will transfer your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation to us for discharge. You will then be subject to a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period that begins on the date the discharge is approved. There are requirements that you must meet during the post-discharge monitoring period. Click here for detailed information regarding the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period requirements.
    • We will reinstate your obligation to repay your discharged loans or complete your discharged TEACH Grant service obligation if at any time during the 3-year monitoring period you do not meet the requirements of the post-discharge monitoring period.

    Denial

    If the Department denies your TPD discharge request, we will notify you of the denial by mail. We will also instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans. The letter that we send will include the reason for the denial and instructions on what you can do if you have questions about the basis of the decision or believe there is other information that the Department should consider.

    Note: If you receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant before the Department grants a discharge, the Department will deny your discharge request and instruct your loan holders to resume collection activity on your loans.

    Will I Be Eligible For New Loans Or Teach Grants?

    If the Department grants a TPD discharge of your federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligation, you will not be eligible to receive a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant in the future unless:

    • You obtain a certification from a physician that you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity; and
    • You sign a statement acknowledging that the new loan or TEACH Grant service obligation cannot be discharged in the future on the basis of any injury or illness present at the time the new loan or TEACH Grant is made, unless your condition substantially deteriorates so that you are again totally and permanently disabled.

    In addition, if your discharge was granted based on documentation from the SSA or a physician’s certification and you request a new Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant during the 3‑year post‑discharge monitoring period described earlier, you must resume repayment on the previously discharged loans or acknowledge that you are once again subject to the terms of your TEACH Grant service obligation before you can receive the new loan or TEACH Grant.

    How Do I Apply?

    For information about TPD discharge application options, click here.

    If you are ready to start your TPD discharge application online, click here.

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