Military Student Loan Forgiveness & Repayment Programs

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Stanley Tate

#1 Student Loan Lawyer

Updated on July 14, 2022

If you’re in the armed forces or a veteran, government and non-government non-profits provide student loan forgiveness and repayment programs, such as PSLF, Military Service Deferment, and Veterans Disability Discharge.

Most US military branches will help members pay off some or all student debt. Some branches offer more forgiveness or assistance than others.

The military offers help with student loan repayment in many ways, including interest rate limits, deferment, repayment assistance, and partial or complete cancellation/loan forgiveness.

Requirements for military student loan forgiveness vary by person and loan type but may include:

  • 120 on-time monthly payments (PSLF)

  • up to $65,000 in loans (Army)

  • serving in hostile territory (deferment)

  • disability (loan forgiveness)

I’ll break down these programs into three categories:

  • Student loan forgiveness programs (for partial or total loan forgiveness/discharge)

  • Department of Defense repayment programs (branch-specific help paying back your loans)

  • Other military service loan benefits (for special deferments, interest rate ceilings, etc.)

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Veterans & Active Duty Military

Below are student loan forgiveness programs for veterans and active-duty military servicemembers. Some of these programs are not exclusive to the military.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) allows public servants to cancel the remainder of their loans after 10 years of qualifying payments.

The military counts as a qualifying government organization (military service is public service), so the months you serve in any branch of the military count towards PSLF. You can serve for 10 years while making payments to qualify, or combine years in the military with years working for a different qualifying non-profit or government organization.

Read More: How to Qualify for the PSLF Program

PSLF applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS loans)

  • FFEL Loans and Perkins Loans, only if consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan

To qualify:

  • Make 120 full, on-time payments while working for a government organization or qualifying employer (deferred payment dates during the COVID-19 pandemic do count towards this number)

  • Payments must have been made after October 1, 2007

To learn more:

Right now, the federal government is offering a limited opportunity waiver for the PSLF program to qualify payments that otherwise would not be eligible for this forgiveness program. Check out my premium guide to applying for the PSLF waiver before it expires.

Veterans Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

If you have a service-related disability, you may qualify for student loan discharge, sometimes called student loan forgiveness.

The Total and Permanent Disability Discharge may cancel your loans. This program applies to veterans or anyone with a total or permanent disability.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS loans)

  • FFEL loans

  • Perkins Loans

  • TEACH Grants

To qualify for TPD, you need one of the following:

  • Documentation from the Department of Veterans Affairs of permanent disability, or

  • Documentation of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that shows a qualifying disability

To learn more:

Alternatively, you can fill out the Temporary Total Disability Deferment Request for deferment due to temporary total disability.

Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)

CLRP is an enlistment incentive the military offers to new recruits. Each branch of the US military can offer this Congress-authorized loan repayment assistance to meet recruitment quotas.

The military’s College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) pays for a portion of your qualifying student loans. Congress has allowed the military to pay for up to $65,000 per person, but most branches only help with $10,000 to $20,000.

Often, your loan’s interest still has to be paid out of your own pocket.

This program is only for people who have not yet served in the military. Officers are not eligible for CLRP, and not every military occupational specialty is eligible for CLRP.

This program applies to:

  • Auxiliary Loan Assistance for Students (ALAS)

  • Stafford Loans (Guaranteed Student Loan)

  • Parent PLUS Loans taken out on behalf of the enlisting student

  • Perkins Loans

  • Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS)

To qualify:

  • CLRP must be in your initial enlistment contract

  • Minimum enlistment of 6 years for Army/Air National Guard or Army/Navy Reserves

  • Minimum enlistment of 4 years for the Air Force or Navy

  • If in the Army, minimum enlistment of 3 years plus a high school diploma and an overall score of 50+ on the ASVAB

To learn more:

  • Contact your local recruiter for details and current eligibility standards

National Defense Student Loan Discharge

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge program helps certain servicemembers and veterans qualify for Perkins Loan forgiveness if they served in a hostile area.

The amount discharged varies per person: If your service ended before August 14, 2008, up to 50% of your loan may be discharged (canceled). If your service began on or after August 14, 2008, up to 100% of your loan may be forgiven.

This program applies to:

  • Perkins Loans

  • National Defense Student Loans

You must have served at least 1 year in a qualifying hostile area or faced direct fire to qualify.

You must fill out a DD214 discharge form with a letter explaining why you qualify for discharge, which must be sent directly to your loan servicer.

To learn more:

  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or your lender

Health Professions Loan Repayment Program

The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program helps with student loan forgiveness for doctors, dentists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals on active-duty in the military or Army Reserve.

In the Navy, you may receive up to $40,000/year for up to 3 years, minus federal income tax. (In the Air Force, that yearly amount is only available for up to 2 years.)

$80,000 to $120,000 in military student loan cancellation goes a long way when we’re talking about medical school loans.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • Other federal loans (ask your loan servicer to find out if your debts qualify)

To qualify:

  • You must work in or qualify for a health profession

  • You must agree to active-duty for a prescribed period of time

  • You must be enrolled full time in your final year at an accredited institution or approved residency program, seeking a degree or specialty qualification in a health profession

  • You must not be a current HPSP or FAP participant

  • If you are in the Air Force, you must maintain a 3.2 GPA

To learn more:

Income-Driven Repayment Student Loan Forgiveness

Income-driven repayment plans (IDR) calculate your monthly federal student loan payment on your income. You may even qualify for a $0 monthly payment amount.

If you pay every month on time for 20 or 25 years (depending on your plan), the remaining balance will be forgiven. The balance forgiven does not count as income on your tax return.

Read More: How to Choose the Right IDR Plan

There are 4 types of IDR plans:

  1. Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)

  2. Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

  3. Income-Based Repayment (IBR)

  4. Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

You’ll need to provide these documents:

To learn more:

Department of Defense (DoD) Student Loan Repayment Programs

These DoD programs pertain to loans held by servicemembers in specific branches of the US military.

Many of the loan forgiveness programs below are part of the Military College Loan Repayment Program (LRP) listed above. Here, I break down the differences by branch.

In certain circumstances, all or part of your student debt may be repaid by the DoD. Contact your designated Military Personnel Officer or representative for application process details or to find out if you’re eligible.

Air Force College Loan Repayment Program

The Air Force student loan repayment program (LRP) has fewer benefits than similar programs, but you might still get your student loan debt forgiven.

The Air Force CLRP repays up to $10,000 off your student loans with a minimum three-year enlistment.

The Air Force will pay 33.33% or $1,500 (whichever is higher) of your student loan principal balance in the first year. In subsequent years, the Air Force will continue to pay that amount off your loan until your student debt is completely paid or up to the $10,000 limit.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • Other federal loans (ask your loan servicer to find out if your debts qualify)

To qualify:

  • You must enlist in the Air Force for a minimum of 3 years

To learn more:

  • Contact your local recruiter for details and current eligibility standards

  • Visit the Air Force website

Air Force JAG Corps Loan Repayment Program

Joining the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps could earn you up to $65,000 in student loan repayment assistance. This JAG Corps loan repayment program pays out over 3 years after your first year as a JAG officer.

The necessary application form will be provided early in your time at The Judge Advocate General’s School. JAG students will also receive a detailed briefing about the student loan repayment program.

On official documents and websites, this program may also be called JA-SLRP or JASLRP.

To qualify, you must complete one year of service as a JAG officer

Air National Guard servicemembers are not eligible.

To learn more:

Army Student Loan Repayment Program

The Army Student Loan Repayment program (LRP) offers military student loan repayment assistance active-duty Army servicemembers.

If you are eligible, the Army will pay up to 33.33% or $1,500 (whichever is higher) of your principal balance every year for 3 years. You may receive a maximum of $65,000 in loan forgiveness.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans

  • FFEL Loans

  • Perkins Loans

Qualifications required:

  • Enlistment of 3 years

  • High school diploma

  • A score of 50+ on the ASVAB

  • Must decline enrollment in Montgomery GI Bill using DD Form 2366

  • Must have LRP in initial enlistment contract

  • Must enroll in critical Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), which changes quarterly (Contact your recruiter for the current listing of critical MOSs)

To learn more:

  • Call the RCMS Help Desk at 1-800-339-0473

  • Apply online for the Army LRP

  • LRP questions and technical issues should be reported to this webpage

  • Contact your local recruiter for a list of critical MOSs you must enroll in for LRP

Army Reserve soldiers with prior military service could receive up to $50,000 in student loan assistance.

Coast Guard Loan Repayment Program

The Coast Guard offers a similar Loan Repayment Program (LRP) to the Army and Air Force.

If eligible, the Coast Guard will pay up to 33.33% or $1,500 (whichever is higher) of your principal loan balance every year for 3 years (maximum of $10,000 per year). During this program, you may receive a maximum of $30,000 in total loan forgiveness.

Payments are subject to income taxes.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • FFEL Loans

  • Perkins Loans

  • Defense Loans

  • National Direct Student Loans

You must be:

  • Currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program, OR

  • Recently graduated from a bachelor’s degree program and aged 21-28, OR

  • Currently enrolled in a graduate program at a qualifying college or institution.

Qualifications required:

  • Minimum service contract of 3 years in the Coast Guard

To learn more:

National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program

The National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) offers student loan repayment assistance for members or veterans of the Army National Guard.

Members of the National Guard may receive up to $50,000 in this military loan forgiveness. The loan repayment assistance amount will not be more than $7,500 per year. Yearly payments will not be more than 15% or $500 (whichever is greater) of the initial loan amount.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (except Parent PLUS Loans)

  • FFEL Loans

  • Perkins Loans

Qualifications required:

  • Enlistment for minimum 6 years in National Guard

  • Enlistment in a critical skills (CS) vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below

  • Score 50+ (for new recruits) or 31+ (for prior servicemembers) on the AFQT

To learn more:

The Navy Loan Repayment Program (LRP) may provide up to $65,000 in total student loan repayment assistance. To qualify, you must enlist in the delayed entry program as active-duty with an eligible rating.

If you’re eligible, the Navy will pay up to 33.33% or $1,500 (whichever is higher) of your principal balance for up to 3 years of enlistment (usually your first 3 years). You may receive a maximum of $65,000 in loan forgiveness.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • Perkins Loans

Qualifications required:

  • Must be first-time servicemembers (non-prior service)

  • Must have a high school diploma

  • Must score 50+ on AFQT

  • LRP must be included in initial enlistment contract

To learn more:

Other Military Student Loan Benefits

Military Service Deferment

Through Military Service Deferment, you can defer student loan repayment during qualifying active-duty or right after active-duty. This deferment program is typically offered for active-duty servicemembers during war, military operation, or national emergency.

During this deferment, you will not be required to make loan payments, and no interest will accrue on your subsidized loans. There is no time limit on this deferment. (The previous 3-year limit was removed in 2007.) Deferment ends 180 days after demobilization.

However, interest will accrue on your unsubsidized loans unless you’re eligible for a 0% interest accrual benefit. Any remaining interest at the end of deferment may be tacked onto your principal balance.

Typically, when training or attending service school, you are not eligible for Military Service Deferment.

This deferment applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • FFEL Loans

  • Perkins Loans

  • Some private loans

You need only one of the following forms of documentation to qualify for Military Service Deferment:

  • Completed Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student Deferment Request form

  • Written statement from commanding officer or personnel officer, along with completed borrower section of the deferment form

  • Copy of military orders, along with completed borrower section of the deferment form

  • Verbal request from you or your representative if documentation cannot be submitted, which only grants an initial 12-month period of deferment, instead of the unlimited period of deferment granted by other forms of documentation

Links & contact info:

Deferments After Active Duty

Active Duty Student Deferment applies to student loan borrowers who were called to active-duty during or within 6 months of attending school at least half-time and have since completed their active-duty military service. This is also called “Post-Active Duty Deferment.”

Following service during war, military operation, or national emergency, former students may defer (postpone) student loan repayment while they prepare to return to their education.

You can receive this deferment up to 13 months after your active-duty military service (plus any applicable grace period) or until you ultimately resume enrollment at a qualifying school on at least a half-time schedule.

This deferment applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • FFEL Loans

  • Perkins Loans

  • Some private loans

You need only one of the following forms of documentation to qualify for Post-Active Duty Deferment:

  • Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student Deferment Request form

  • Written statement from a commanding officer or personnel officer, along with completed borrower section of the deferment form

  • Copy of your military orders

Links & contact info:

Read More: What is a grace period for student loans?

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) applies to anyone on active-duty, whether or not you serve in a war zone. This act limits creditors to charging no more than a 6% interest rate on most any debt held by a servicemember, including education loans.

Also, SCRA prohibits servicemembers from facing collection actions. Collection agencies are forbidden from filing collection lawsuits against servicemembers on active-duty or within the 90 days after your service ends.

The federal government automatically applies the 6% interest rate limitation to eligible borrowers’ accounts without a borrower’s request. However, the government also has a form to fill out if you think you should qualify and haven’t automatically benefitted.

If you consolidated your federal loans after your active-duty began, your Direct Consolidation Loan might not be eligible for any SCRA debt relief.

SCRA applies to:

  • All federal loans disbursed to servicemembers on or after August 14, 2008

  • All private student loans held by servicemembers

  • All loans or debt incurred by a servicemember

  • Loans disbursed before active-duty began

Your loan servicer should check to find your name on an authorized military database. If you are listed, you automatically benefit from SCRA. You don’t have to do anything.

To qualify, your loans must be disbursed on or after August 14, 2008. Contact your loan servicer for information about SCRA eligibility.

Links & contact info:

0% interest while serving in a hostile area

While serving in a hostile area, you do not have to pay any interest for up to 60 months (5 years).

The US Department of Education applies this benefit automatically. If you think you’ve been mistakenly passed over, contact your student loan servicer ASAP, and interest may be retroactively forgiven.

This benefit applies to federal Direct Loans disbursed on or after October 1, 2008.

Direct Consolidation Loans that consolidated loans made before October 1, 2008 do not make those older loans eligible for 0% interest. The newer portions of the Direct Consolidation Loan will still qualify for 0% interest.

You need only one piece of proof of deployment in a hostile area to qualify for 0% interest while serving in a hostile area, such as:

  • An official’s statement with signature

  • Military orders proving you’re serving in a hostile area

  • Leave and Earnings Statement proving hostile or imminent-danger pay

HEROES Act Waiver

The Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students (HEROES) Act of 2003 ensures military servicemembers receiving federal student loans don’t have their education negatively impacted by their service. (This is not the same as the HEROES Act of 2020.)

While on active-duty, the government waives many documentation requirements for federal student loan benefits, such as recertifying your family size and income while on an income-driven repayment plan.

Your student loan servicer should automatically apply the HEROES Act waiver if they have information that you are on active-duty and qualify for the waiver.

This program applies to:

  • Direct Loans (including Parent PLUS Loans)

  • FFEL Loans

  • Perkins Loans

Qualifications and documentation required:

  • Military orders

  • Active duty service during war, military operation, or national emergency

Student loan tips for military members

  • Check out MilTax for FREE tax filing, software, and support to military and veterans.

  • Educate yourself on the financial benefits that active military duty provides.

  • Keep track of your PSLF loan forgiveness eligibility and fill out the limited opportunity waiver to ensure you receive credit for as many qualifying payments as possible.

  • Check out these Military Support Organizations.

  • Don’t let your loan payments fall behind. Particularly with federal loans, you have options such as deferment, income-driven repayment, or even negotiating a settlement.

  • Just need to talk to someone? You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) 8 AM to 10 PM EST, Monday-Friday, but not on federal holidays. Or check out the government’s extensive list of resources.

Sign up for my FREE email newsletter for tips and up-to-date advice on student loan repayment and forgiveness. If you have specific questions about your unique situation, schedule a FREE 10-minute call with me.

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