3 Ways to Qualify for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

Loan Repayment3 minutes

If you get a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge, you don’t have to repay your federal student loan(s) or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation. As of April 2022, around 401,000 borrowers have gotten $7.8 billion in loan forgiveness through TPD discharge. And there are multiple ways to qualify!

To get TPD discharge, you need to show that you have a disability that significantly affects your ability to work. This can be a physical or a mental disability. In some cases, you’ll have to provide specific kinds of proof of your disability.


Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

You’re eligible for TPD discharge if the VA awarded you a disability determination because you

  • have a service-connected disability that is 100% disabling, or
  • are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating.

We work with the VA to identify people who qualify for TPD discharge, and we’ll send you a letter if you’re eligible.

Didn’t receive a letter? If you believe you have a qualifying VA disability determination, you can submit a TPD discharge application. You’ll also need to provide a document that shows when the VA awarded you the disability determination.


Through the Social Security Administration (SSA)

You can also qualify for TPD discharge if

  • you’re receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and
  • your next scheduled disability review will be within five to seven years.

Just because you receive SSDI or SSI benefits doesn’t mean you automatically get TPD discharge.

As we do with the VA, we work with the SSA to identify individuals who qualify for TPD discharge and will send you a letter if you’re eligible.

Didn’t receive a letter? If you believe you qualify based on an SSA disability determination, you can submit a TPD discharge application. You’ll need to provide either

  • a copy of your SSA notice of award or
  • a Benefits Planning Query showing that your next disability review is within five to seven years of your most recent SSA disability determination.


Through a Doctor

Lastly, you can qualify for TPD discharge by getting a doctor to certify Section 4 of your TPD application.

But it can’t be just any doctor—only a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy/Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) can certify your disability for TPD discharge. The doctor also must be licensed to practice medicine in the United States.

Even if your usual primary care provider is a physician’s assistant (P.A.) or advance practice registered nurse (APRN), you’ll need an M.D. or D.O. to certify your TPD discharge application.

Your doctor’s certification has to show a couple of things.

Firstly, it must show that you’re “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity.” This means that you can’t work enough to make money to support yourself.

Secondly, your doctor must confirm that your inability to work is because of a physical or mental impairment (disability) that

  • can be expected to result in death,
  • has lasted for a continuous period of at least 5 years (60 months), or
  • can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 5 years (60 months).

How to Apply

If you believe you qualify for a TPD discharge but haven’t gotten an automatic discharge letter, there are three ways to start applying:

  1. You can use the application wizard to auto-fill parts of your application.
  2. You can print out the application form and complete it by hand.
  3. You can request that an application be mailed to you by emailing DisabilityInformation@Nelnet.net or calling 1-888-303-7818. Office hours are Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Eastern time.

A caregiver or representative can apply on your behalf if it’s a challenge to complete an application by yourself. They just need to complete an Applicant Representative Designation form.

For all options, you’ll need to mail your completed form, along with any supporting documents, back to the U.S. Department of Education.

Mail your application to:

  • U.S. Department of Education – TPD Servicing
  • P.O. Box 87130
  • Lincoln, NE 68501-7130

For more information about TPD discharge—including eligibility, applications, and FAQs—check out the official TPD discharge website, DisabilityDischarge.com.