CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined a group of 51 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Department of Education to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connection with their military service.
The bipartisan coalition issued its letter Friday as the country began the Memorial Day weekend of honoring fallen troops.
“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to assist those who have put their lives on the line to defend us,” Morrisey joined in writing. “As Attorneys General, we understand the difficulties faced by our residents who struggle to manage their student loan debt. Those difficulties are only compounded for veterans and others who are suffering from a total and permanent disability. The cost of education for our disabled veterans today is soaring, and it would be of great benefit to those who are burdened by these crushing debts to obtain relief without arduous compliance requirements.”
The attorney generals’ letter, addressed to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, calls upon the Education Department to develop a process to automatically discharge the student loans of veterans eligible for such relief, as determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While the automatic discharge process is in development, the letter proposes, the Education Department should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans.
Last year, the Education Department identified more than 42,000 veterans as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability. Fewer than 9,000 had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018 and more than 25,000 had student loans in default.
Federal law requires the Education Department to discharge federal student loans for veterans who are determined by the Veterans Affairs to be unemployable (or totally and permanently disabled) due to a service-connected condition.
Although the Education Department currently requires disabled veterans to take affirmative steps to apply for a loan discharge, those steps are not required by law.
The attorneys general note the federal government has taken some steps to make it easier for eligible veterans to secure student loan relief, however, an automatic discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt out for personal reasons would eliminate unnecessary paperwork and ensure that all eligible veterans receive a discharge.
West Virginia signed onto the New Jersey- and Utah-led letter with attorneys general from Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Read a copy of the letter at http://bit.ly/2VJ6GmZ.