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The government promises to forgive military members’ student loans after 10 years of service – it only works with 124 of them


Nearly 3 million people are employed in the Department of Defense, many of them performing a quintessential form of public service: Serving in the armed forces. But as of January of last year, only 124 military members were allowed to accept their student loans under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

That equates to about 9% of program provider’s debt relief applications – and this number is even better than the national overall success rate of 1%.

That is according to a report The Government Accountability Office announced on Thursday the agency also found 1,410 military members who had applied for programmed debt cancellation.

Public Service Loan Forgive the remaining balance of a Direct Loan after the borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualified repayment plan during full-time employment time for a public service company listed on the program.


Furthermore, 11% of the 176,906 active military personnel whose loans were eligible for parole or loans that could be consolidated for eligibility have already filled in the paperwork.

To be eligible for parole, borrowers need to be in the correct student loan installment type, not all are eligible; they need to work the right kind public service jobs, some unqualified non-profit jobs; they need a 10-year monthly payment; and they need the right type of federal student loan.

Among the discharged servicemen are 34 from the Army, 37 from the Navy, 42 from the Air Force and 11 from the Marine Corps. Overall, only 287 borrowers hired by the Defense Department have been forgiven under the program, out of 5,180 applicants – a decline rate of 94%.

Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Loan Protection Center, a borrower advocate said: “Just when you think we’ve hit a bottom when it comes to the completely poor management of the chapter. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Process. group.

“To finally get confirmation that only 124 service members received forgiveness over a decade after the show was created is truly a national disgrace.”

Furthermore, GAO found that only 11% of the 176,906 active military personnel whose loans were eligible for forgiveness or that loans that could be consolidated to qualify for forgiveness had filled in paperwork to take them in the direction of relief.

Streamlining the process for these service members can be especially important, make requests of an active soldier.

GAO’s findings are the latest evidence of the challenges that borrowers face when approaching PSLF, an initiative that allows people working for the government and at a number of nonprofits to be solved. accept their federal student loans after 10 years of payment and public service employment.

PSLF struggled in the earliest tests to deliver on its promises

The show, which launched in 2007, struggled in the earliest tests to deliver on its promises. When, after 10 years of existence, the first group of borrowers were eligible for the disbursement of their loans under the program in 2017, 99% of the applications Was rejected.

Some who watched the program closely had hoped that in the following years the initial applicant group, the proportion of those approved for bailout under the PSLF, would increase.

One of the main reasons for this prognosis: during the first few years of the program, the type of federal student loan most borrowers have been granted are ineligible for parole under the PSLF unless the borrow their debt consolidation.


The first group of borrowers who qualified for the mortgage of their loans under the program in 2017, 99% of the application was rejected.

Borrowers who have taken student loans from 2010 onwards, and those who first qualify for PSLF forgiveness in 2020, are only granted the type of loan that qualifies for the program.

For Frotman, the quantitative improvement is not an excuse for the damage the borrowers have suffered. As a student loan inspector at the Consumer Finance Protection Department, he warning Potential challenges the PSLF faces before the first cohort qualifies for forgiveness.

In addition, the GAO report released on Thursday, indicating that many obstacles faced by applicants in the first groups of access to forgiveness persist. The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

In his response to the GAO, Mark Brown, Appointed person Betsy DeVos used to be the executive director of the Federal Student Aid under the Ministry of Education before stepping down in March, the agency said it had agreed to the GAO’s proposals. He also highlighted the steps the agency has taken to simplify PSLF, including creating databases borrowers can use to see if they work for a qualified employer. are not.

On the way to run for election, President Joe Biden swear to “carry out debt relief for civil servants”, and the supporters have pushed the government to do so.

Promises are simple, but approaching relief can be a challenge

While the idea and promise of a Public Service Loan Forgiveness is relatively simple – work for 10 years in public service, pay your student loan for that period and balance the rest is liberated – really get relief can be complicated.

Only Direct Loan is eligible for PSLF, but borrowers with a Family Federal Education Loan can pool their debt into a Direct Loan to qualify for bailout. For years, borrowers and advocates have reported student loan companies – companies that are paid by the government to manage the student loan repayment process – not provided to borrowers with enough or pertinent information to take advantage of this option.

That means that in some cases the borrowers are doing public service and paying their student loans, assume they would qualify for relief, just to find out after years of billing those efforts are not counted toward the program.

In his response to the GAO report, Brown hinted that some Defense Department employees had applied for forgiveness, but were denied being in this situation.

He writes, 80% of applicants denied without a Direct Loan have been repaid in at least 10 years. Even so, some of these borrowers may have repaid in the FFEL program during that time period. . ”

‘The complete indictment of the bigger show’

Frotman says it is “a full indictment of the larger program” for which borrowers who are clearly eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness are having difficulty accessing the bailout promise.

“Obviously, if you can’t apply it properly to those on active duty in our country, then you are completely incompetent when it comes to others,” he said.


‘If you can’t get it right for those who are actually serving our country on active duty, then there’s no question that you are also completely incompetent when it comes to others.’


– Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center

The GAO asked the Department of Education to take steps to provide the Department of Defense more information about the qualified staff and those who took steps to pursue the program. It also recommends that the Department of Defense provide more information to its staff about the PSLF.

But Frotman and other supporters have called on the Biden administration to go even further. A coalition of 97 organizations sent a letter to Education Minister Miguel Cardona earlier this week urged the department to cancel the student debt of those who have worked in the state for at least 10 years.

For those who currently serve or have served in the military, Frotman said the government should leverage its data on those with federal student loans and those who have served to ensure that those times. That serving qualifies for forgiveness.

“For anyone who has served for 10 years, tomorrow will wipe out their loans.

Frotman, who before serving as CFPB’s student loan director who served as a senior advisor to Holly Petraeus, then the assistant director of military affairs at the consumer department, called on the Ministry of Education. There is a plan on Cardona’s desk to resolve these issues by date of release of the report.

Frotman talks about the challenges military borrowers face when accessing student loan relief. “This is the right of priority, to exercise this right on behalf of military families, for dedicated civil servants. This should be front and center. ”

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