Attorneys general representing 47 states have called on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to forgive the student loan debt of more than 42,000 U.S. service veterans who became permanently disabled through military service.
As Reuters reported, the total student loan debt held by this group is more than $1 billion, and the attorneys general want to make it easier to have these loans discharged. A letter from New Jersey Democrat Gurbir Grewal and Utah Republican Sean Reyes called on the department to develop an automatic process for these loans to be forgiven, easing the burden on veterans who were disabled during their service to the United States.
This group has a high default rate, the report noted. Fewer than 9,000 of the veterans eligible to have their loans forgiven had started the application process, while more than 25,000 of them were in default on their student loans.
“We welcome the federal government’s recent efforts—including the implementation of a data matching program between the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs—to make it easier for veterans to have their loans discharged due to disability,” the attorneys general said in a letter to DeVos sent on Friday. “But the Department of Education continues to require eligible veterans to take affirmative steps to secure the loan forgiveness that is their statutory right. And the requirements imposed by the Department may prove insurmountable obstacles to relief for many eligible veterans due to the severe nature of their disabilities.”
The department has pushed back against the idea of automatically discharging student loan debt, noting that veterans who are eligible for the program need to be informed about the potential effect that discharging these loans could have on their income tax or eligibility to receive future loans for education.
Under DeVos, the Department of Education has taken steps to address the rising student loan crisis by giving consumers more information about getting their money. That included a recent update to the College Scorecard website with data from programs that offer vocational certificates, CNN reported.
Opinion: Betsy DeVos Embodies Trump-Era Corruption. Why Aren't Democrats Grilling Her? https://t.co/j8y1gPGZx8
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The moves come as the student loan crisis has come into sharp focus for many of the 2020 presidential candidates, the report noted. The Trump administration has been criticized for failing to properly address the rising debt or offer a plan for forgiveness for those who graduate college saddled with debt. Others have called on Democrats to sharpen their focus on DeVos herself, calling out her for what are seen as troubling business connections.