Student Loan Forgiveness for Social Security Recipients

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Updated on March 15, 2023

In 2023, nearly 67 million Americans will receive Social Security benefits each month, amounting to over one trillion dollars in total annual benefits, according to Social Security Administration data. Of these recipients, less than 5% owe federal student loans.

If you are part of this small group, you may wonder if your student loans can be forgiven while receiving Social Security. The answer is yes — but only if the SSA determines you are 100% disabled and schedules your next disability review within 5 to 7 years from your most recent disability determination.

For those without a permanent disability, an income-driven repayment plan offers another route to loan forgiveness. Under IDR Plans, the U.S. Department of Education forgives remaining loan balances after at least two decades of repayment.

The federal government is reviewing the payment histories of its 43 million borrowers and granting retroactive credit toward this forgiveness program. Once completed, the IDR Waiver is expected to eliminate debts for tens of thousands of federal student loan borrowers and bring millions closer to loan forgiveness.

Related: What happens to student loans when you go on Social Security?

Are student loans forgiven if you are on Social Security?

Federal student loan borrowers receiving disability benefits through the Social Security Administration may qualify for automatic loan forgiveness. Starting in September 2021, borrowers identified as totally and permanently disabled based on data matching with the SSA will get a loan discharge automatically without needing to apply.

Affected borrowers will be notified of their eligibility for automatic TPD discharge and have the option to opt-out if desired.

In its press release announcing the new policy, the Education Department shared that the change would result in over 323,000 borrowers receiving more than $5.8 billion in federal student loan relief.

In that same announcement, the department announced plans to eliminate the three-year monitoring period required under current regulations. The department had previously waived that requirement during the pandemic.

Keep in mind that getting a student loan disability discharge won’t affect your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Note that private student loan forgiveness options for disability differ from the Education Department’s policy. Lenders like Sallie Mae and SoFi may release the primary borrower from a private student loan debt if they have a qualifying disability. But the cosigner may remain on the hook for the balance.

How to get loan forgiveness when you draw Social Security benefits?

If you are receiving Social Security but not because of a physical or mental impairment, your best option for loan forgiveness after a TPD Discharge is Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness and the IDR Waiver.

These programs are open to all federal student loan borrowers — including retirees. Combined, they offer affordable monthly payments and forgive remaining balances after at least two decades of eligible student loan payments and forbearance and deferment periods.

Related: Can senior citizens get student loans forgiven?

Direct Loan borrowers automatically qualify, while those with Federal Family Education Loan and Perkins Loan Programs may need to consolidate their loans by May 1, 2023, to be eligible. You can consolidate FFEL and Perkins Loans on the Federal Student Aid website,

Note that this forgiveness opportunity is separate from President Joe Biden’s loan cancellation plan, currently on hold with the Supreme Court. That means even if the justices strike down Biden’s plan, you can still get your loans forgiven under the IDR Waiver.

What is the student loan relief for Medicare and Social Security Recipients Act?

The Student Loan Relief for Medicare and Social Security Recipients Act is a bill introduced to eliminate student loan debt older than 20 years for Medicare and Social Security disability insurance beneficiaries, including current and future enrollees. It was introduced last December by four House Democrats.

Related: Student Loan Forgiveness Age 65

Disabled and older individuals often struggle with student loan debt alongside substantial health care expenses. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau discovered that 39% of consumers aged 60 and older with student loan debt neglected health care needs such as prescription medicines, doctor’s visits, and dental care due to cost concerns, compared to 25% of older consumers without student loans.

If passed, the Act would help over 3 million Americans aged 60 and older who collectively owe more than $86 billion in unpaid student loans, according to CFPB data.

Although the Biden administration’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 per individual would ease some burden, many borrowers owe over double the maximum relief amount.

Bottom Line

For many older Americans, federal benefits are their sole monthly income. Protecting your Social Security from student loan garnishment and tax refund offset by the IRS is crucial. Over the years, I’ve assisted hundreds of Social Security recipients to safeguard their funds.

Schedule a call with me today. Together, we’ll devise the best strategy to eliminate your student loans swiftly and secure your Social Security payments.

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