If you’re totally and permanently disabled, you may qualify for a discharge of your federal student loans and/or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant service obligation.

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

A total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge relieves you from having to repay a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, and/or a Federal Perkins Loan or to complete a TEACH Grant service obligation.

To qualify for a TPD discharge, you must complete and submit a TPD discharge application, along with documentation showing that you meet our requirements for being considered totally and permanently disabled, to Nelnet, the servicer that assists the U.S. Department of Education with the TPD discharge process.

Note: Throughout this page, the words "we," "our," and "us" refer to the U.S. Department of Education.

How do I show that I qualify for a TPD discharge?
How do I apply for a TPD discharge?
Can a representative apply on my behalf and help me throughout the TPD discharge process?
What happens after I submit a TPD discharge application?
What happens if my TPD discharge request is approved?
What requirements do I have to meet during the three-year postdischarge monitoring period?
What happens if my obligation to repay my loans or to satisfy my TEACH Grant service obligation is reinstated?
What happens if my TPD discharge request is denied?
I received a TPD discharge but want to go back to school. Can I take out more student loans or TEACH Grants?
If my loan is discharged due to TPD, do I have to pay taxes on the discharged loan amount?
Where can I find more information about TPD discharge?

How do I show that I qualify for a TPD discharge?

You can show that you qualify for a TPD discharge by providing documentation from one of three sources:

  1. the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  2. the Social Security Administration (SSA)
  3. a physician

There are specific requirements for each type of supporting documentation that you can submit to show your eligibility.

VA Documentation

If you’re a veteran, you can qualify for a TPD discharge by providing documentation from the VA that shows you have received a VA disability determination because you (1) have a service-connected disability that is 100 percent disabling; or (2) are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating.

SSA Documentation

If you’re eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you can qualify for a TPD discharge if you provide a copy of your SSA notice of award or Benefits Planning Query showing that your next scheduled disability review will be five to seven years or more from the date of your last SSA disability determination.

We work with the VA and the SSA to identify those who qualify for a discharge based on their status with the VA or the SSA. If we receive information from the appropriate agency indicating that you qualify for a TPD discharge, we’ll send you a letter notifying you of your eligibility for discharge, along with a TPD discharge application. If you want to apply for a TPD discharge, all you need to do is complete and submit the discharge application, without having to provide any additional documentation of your eligibility for discharge.

Physician’s Certification

You also can qualify for a TPD discharge by having a physician certify on the TPD discharge application that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that

  • can be expected to result in death;
  • has lasted for a continuous period of at least 60 months; or
  • can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 60 months.

Substantial gainful activity is a level of work performed for pay or profit that involves doing significant physical or mental activities, or a combination of both.

The physician who certifies your TPD discharge application must be a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy/osteopathic medicine (D.O.) who is licensed to practice in the United States.


How do I apply for a TPD discharge?

You need to complete a TPD discharge application and send it, along with any required documentation of your eligibility for discharge, to Nelnet, the TPD discharge servicer. The TPD discharge application applies to all of your federal student loans and TEACH Grant service obligations. Nelnet assists us in administering the TPD discharge process and communicates with borrowers and TEACH Grant recipients on our behalf concerning TPD discharge requests.

To learn more about applying for a TPD discharge and to obtain a TPD discharge application, visit our TPD Discharge website at disabilitydischarge.com and select "Application Process."

You can let Nelnet know that you want to apply and request a TPD discharge application by phone or email. If you do, any required payments on your federal student loans will stop for 120 days to give you time to submit your application and any required supporting documentation.

You can contact Nelnet by email at disabilityinformation@nelnet.net and by phone at 1-888-303-7818 Monday–Friday from 7 a.m.–2 a.m. Eastern time (ET), and Saturday from 8 a.m.–7 p.m. ET. For additional ways to contact Nelnet, and to get more information about applying for a TPD discharge, visit our TPD discharge website.


Can a representative apply on my behalf and help me throughout the TPD discharge process?

Yes, you can designate an individual or organization to complete and submit your TPD discharge application on your behalf, and assist you throughout the discharge process. To designate a representative, you and your representative must complete an Applicant Representative Designation form. Nelnet must receive and process this form before working with your representative. You must submit this form even if your representative already has a power of attorney to act on your behalf in other matters.

To download the Applicant Representative Designation form, visit the TPD Discharge website at disabilitydischarge.com and select “Forms.”


What happens after I submit a TPD discharge application?

After your application is received, Nelnet will explain the process for the review of your application. You won't be required to make any payments on your loans while your discharge application is being reviewed.


What happens if my TPD discharge request is approved?

This depends on the type of documentation you submitted to show us that you qualified for a TPD discharge.

VA Documentation

If we determine that you are totally and permanently disabled based on documentation from the VA, Nelnet will

  • notify you that your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation have been discharged and
  • instruct your loan holders to return any loan payments received on or after the effective date of the VA’s disability determination to the person who made the payments.

SSA Documentation or Physician's Certification

If we determine that you are totally and permanently disabled based on SSA documentation or a physician's certification, Nelnet will

  • notify you that your loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation have been discharged;
  • instruct your loan holders to return any loan payments received after the date Nelnet received the SSA documentation or the date the physician certified your discharge application to the person who made the payments; and
  • notify you that you will be subject to a three-year postdischarge monitoring period that begins on the date the discharge is approved, and that your obligation to repay your loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation will be reinstated if you don’t meet certain requirements at any time during this monitoring period.

What requirements do I have to meet during the three-year postdischarge monitoring period?

Your obligation to repay your loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation will be reinstated if, at any time during the three-year postdischarge monitoring period, you receive

  • annual earnings from employment that exceed the poverty guideline amount for a family of two in your state, regardless of your actual family size;
  • a new federal student loan under the Direct Loan Program or a new TEACH Grant;
  • another disbursement (payment) of a Direct Loan or a TEACH Grant that was first disbursed (paid out) before your discharge was approved, and the new disbursement has not been returned to the loan holder or (for a TEACH Grant) to us within 120 days of the disbursement date; or
  • a notice from the SSA stating that you are no longer disabled, or that your next scheduled disability review will no longer be five to seven years from the date of your last SSA disability determination.

Note: During the postdischarge monitoring period, Nelnet will require you to submit documentation of your annual earnings from employment on a form that Nelnet will provide. If you don't submit this form with the required documentation of your income, your obligation to repay your loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation will be reinstated.

The poverty guideline amounts are updated annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. Nelnet will notify you of the current poverty guideline amounts during each year of the postdischarge monitoring period.

For detailed information regarding the three-year postdischarge monitoring period requirements, visit the TPD Discharge website at disabilitydischarge.com and select “Monitoring Period.”

If you're a veteran whose TPD discharge application is approved based on documentation from the VA, you aren't subject to a postdischarge monitoring period.


What happens if my obligation to repay my loans or satisfy my TEACH Grant service obligation is reinstated?

You will again be responsible for repaying your loans in accordance with the terms of the promissory note that you signed, or satisfying your TEACH Grant service obligation in accordance with the terms of the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve that you completed.

If you applied for a discharge of loans, your loans will be returned to the status they were in before you applied for discharge. This means that if a loan was in default before you applied for a TPD discharge, it will be returned to default status.

If your obligation to repay your loans or complete your TEACH Grant service obligation is reinstated, Nelnet will explain the reason for the reinstatement and provide information about what you can do if you have questions about the reinstatement or if you believe the reinstatement was based on incorrect information.


What happens if my TPD discharge request is denied?

If we determine that you don’t qualify for a TPD discharge, Nelnet will

  • notify you of the reason for the denial of your discharge application;
  • explain that you may ask us to reevaluate your discharge application if you provide new information that supports your eligibility for discharge within 12 months of the date you are notified that your discharge application has been denied;
  • explain that if you don’t request reevaluation of your discharge application within 12 months of the date you’re notified that your discharge application has been denied, and you still want us to reevaluate your eligibility, you must submit a new TPD discharge application with new information about your disabling condition that was not provided with your prior discharge application;
  • explain that you’re again responsible for repaying your loans, and that your loan holder will notify you when your first payment is due; and
  • explain that if you applied for a discharge of a TEACH Grant service obligation, you’re again responsible for meeting the terms and conditions of the service obligation.

I received a TPD discharge but want to go back to school. Can I take out more student loans or TEACH Grants?

Yes, but with some conditions.

If you received a TPD discharge based on VA documentation, SSA documentation, or a physician’s certification, you must

  • give your school a letter from a physician stating that you are once again able to engage in substantial gainful activity, and
  • sign a statement acknowledging that you can't get a TPD discharge of the new loan or TEACH Grant based on a disabling condition that already exists when you receive the new loan or TEACH Grant, unless that condition substantially deteriorates in the future.

If you received a TPD discharge based on SSA documentation or a physician’s certification and your three-year postdischarge period hasn’t ended, you must also resume repayment on your previously discharged loans or acknowledge that you are once again responsible for meeting the terms and conditions of your TEACH Grant service obligation.


If my loan is discharged due to TPD, do I have to pay taxes on the discharged loan amount?

Because of a change in federal law related to the taxability of loan amounts discharged due to TPD, the answer depends on when you received the discharge.

  • If you received a TPD discharge of a loan before Jan. 1, 2018, the loan amount discharged may be considered income for federal tax purposes under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.
  • If you received a TPD discharge of a loan during the period from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2025, the discharged loan amount won’t be considered income for federal tax purposes.

For purposes of determining whether a loan amount discharged due to TPD may be treated as taxable income for federal tax purposes, the date you are considered to have received the discharge is different depending on how you qualified for the discharge.

If you’re a veteran who showed that you’re totally and permanently disabled based on a disability determination by the VA, you’re considered to have received the discharge for federal tax purposes on the date we approve the discharge.

If you showed that you’re totally and permanently disabled based on documentation from the SSA or a physician’s certification (meaning that you’re subject to a three-year postdischarge monitoring period), you’re considered to have received the discharge for federal tax purposes at the end of the postdischarge monitoring period. For example, if your discharge was approved in July 2017, you would not be considered to have received the discharge for federal tax purposes until July 2020, at the end of the three-year postdischarge monitoring period. Therefore, the IRS would not consider the discharged loan amount to be taxable income for federal tax purposes.

If you receive a Form 1099-C, you should keep the form for your records, but you do not need to include it when filing your federal tax return. For additional information, visit irs.gov.

Loan amounts discharged due to TPD may still be considered income for state tax purposes. If you receive a TPD discharge of a federal student loan, you may want to consult with your state tax office or a tax professional before you file your state tax return.


Where can I find more information about TPD discharge?

For more detailed information about TPD discharge, visit the TPD discharge website at disabilitydischarge.com.