Totally and Permanently Disabled

Your student loan(s) may be cancelled if you are permanently totally disabled.

Total Permanent Disability Loan Discharge Application (pdf)


You must be permanently totally disabled.


Criteria for Permanent Total Disability (Federal Perkins Student Loans):

You can show that you are totally and permanently disabled in one of the following three ways:

  1. If you are a veteran, you can submit documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) showing that the VA has determined you are unemployable due to a service-connected disability;
  2. If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can submit a Social Security Administration (SSA) notice of award for SSDI or SSI benefits stating that your next scheduled disability review will be within 5 to 7 years from the date of your most recent SSA disability determination; or
  3. You can submit certification from a physician that you are totally and permanently disabled. Your physician must certify that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that:
    • Can be expected to result in death;
    • Has lasted for a continuous period of not less than 60 months; or
    • Can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 60 months.

Each option for showing that you are totally and permanently disabled has specific requirements for the supporting documentation that you must submit with your TPD discharge application. Review the supporting documentation requirements.

** There is a 3 year conditional discharge period.

Veterans TPD Discharge:

  • If you are a veteran, you will be considered eligible for discharge due to total and permanent disability (TPD) if the you provide documentation from the Veterans Administration (VA) showing that you have been determined to be unemployable due to a service-connected condition.
  • Upon notification by the Department that you qualify for a TPD discharge, our office will notify you of the discharge and refund any payments that were made on or after the effective date of the grant of disability by the VA. The effective date will be provided in the Department's/Nelnet's notification of discharge eligibility.

Application Process

What should I do to apply for a TPD discharge of my student loan(s)?

Federal Perkins Student Loans:

You should let the Department know you want to apply. This can be accomplished by phone or email. Call the Department/Nelnet seven days a week at 888-303-7818 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) or email [email protected].

You can also inform the Department/Nelnet that you want to apply by submitting the Total Permanent Disability Loan Discharge Application or start the TPD discharge application online.

When you let Nelnet know that you want to apply for a TPD discharge, Nelnet will take the following actions:

  • First, they will provide you with the information they need to apply for a TPD discharge.
  • Second, Nelnet will review their records and identify your federal student loans and/or TEACH Grant service obligation that may qualify for a TPD discharge.

University Funded Student Loans

Since University Funded Student Loans are not federally funded, it will be necessary to submit a signed affidavit from a physician that includes the following information:

  • Verification that you are totally disabled.
  • The nature of the illness.
  • The start date of the total disability.
  • The total disablement is expected to be permanent.

Other Options

If your loan is not eligible for a Permanent Total Disability Cancellation and you are unable to meet your scheduled payments, you may apply for a temporary total disability deferment or an unemployment deferment, economic hardship deferment, or forbearance.