Celebrating Victory: A Client’s Journey to Student Loan Debt Forgiveness

In 2018, Robert sought our assistance with his federal student loan debt. Robert, who has a moderate intellectual disability and has been a regional center client for twenty years, was targeted by a now-defunct for-profit school in 2004. This school enrolled him in a bogus computer science program and saddled him with over $24,000 in federal student loan debt, despite his having no prospects of employment in the field.

We believed Robert qualified for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge of his federal student loans. A TPD discharge forgives student loan debt for individuals who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment. However, at that time, only medical doctors could complete the TPD application. Over the years, we helped Robert enroll in Medi-Cal, make appointments with primary care physicians, and obtain an updated psychological evaluation. Despite our efforts, his physicians refused to assist with the TPD application without offering any explanation.

Recently, the Department of Education expanded the types of medical professionals who can complete the TPD form to include licensed psychologists. With renewed hope, we approached Robert’s regional center and successfully advocated for their licensed psychologist to help. This month, Robert’s TPD application was approved, and all his student loan debt will be discharged!

This victory, years in the making, is a testament to the tireless efforts of Public Counsel’s Consumer Rights and Economic Justice project and the incredible collaboration of volunteers, social work interns, attorneys, and third-party case workers. Congratulations to Robert for his strength and courage in the face of adversity, and to the entire team for rallying on his behalf.

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