Trying to get my student loans waived (TPD), need help with a snag.
June 11, 2024 11:19 AM   Subscribe

As I am totally Deaf (100%, cannot hear at all), I have many Deaf friends who signed up for the permanent total forgiveness of student loans and were successful. I decided to do the same thing, but my doctor is saying that my Deafness doesn't qualify because it doesn't prevent me from doing substantial activity.

I can understand that, because I am employed, BUT what my doctor doesn't seem to understand is that being Deaf does make life much harder in other ways. We often are passed over for promotions, and we have to go through a lot of barriers (such as not being able to call). I do consider being Deaf as a disability.

Many of my friends (who are also employed) did the same thing I did and their doctors seemed to agree that they qualified, but my doctor is pushing back. How would you advise I convince (not control, just convince) him to agree with that and sign it?

I also am using cancer (which is seemingly terminal, as my oncologist said I have 5 years left to live) as a permanent disability, but I am not sure if TPD considers that a true disability.

Thanks for the help!
posted by dubious_dude to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Easist route is to have a different doctor sign it. Start with your oncologist.

Or bug your clinic social worker about it and see if they can push for the signature. Sometimes a reassuring professional can get the signature out of a hesitant physician.*

* I personally have done this on as a part of my job duties for forms of various importance.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:28 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]

Dude, I'm so sorry to hear this latest prognosis. Five years is a long time in terms of new treatments coming online. I hope you can inhabit that weird territory that encompasses both acceptance and hope. Good luck with the loan forgiveness.
posted by kate4914 at 11:42 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]

Ask your oncologist. You will surely eventually lose the ability at some point to engage in full-time work (substantial gainful activity), and have at least switch to part time, sadly. At that point, the terminal diagnosis (impairment expected to end in death) should suffice:

To qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge of federal student loans or TEACH Grant service obligations, you must be totally and permanently disabled. This means you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death, or has lasted for at least 60 months.
posted by blue suede stockings at 11:47 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: From previous questions, you're employed full-time or nearly so, right?

Yes, I'm employed full time. However, my friends (and friends of friends, so not immediate friends) are also employed full time and got their loans waived; their doctors must have signed/certified that they qualify. So, it seems something is inconsistent here, perhaps with doctors' opinions of what is considered permanently and totally disabled? I am 100% Deaf with no range of hearing, which is expected to last until I die, so technically I should meet the requirements of the TPD discharge, no?

Should I just stick with the terminal cancer diagnosis as a way to get my loans waived/discharged?

As far as I know, TPD no longer does income monitoring, so it seems like working full time does not matter anymore for TPD. Please correct me if my understanding is wrong. (Sorry for the Forbes link, I know their website is annoying with ads, but they do have a blurb there about discontinuing the monitoring period.)

Dude, I'm so sorry to hear this latest prognosis

Thanks! I shared this here last December, when I found out. It's definitely hard but I take it day by day and be as positive as I can.
posted by dubious_dude at 12:12 PM on June 11

I am now unclear if I qualify or not

According to my understanding of your circumstances, you don't qualify (though, unfortunately, as discussed, and may that day not come, you probably will in the years to come). Your doctor is absolutely correct not to certify you as unable to engage in substantial gainful activity while you're full-time employed in a regular job earning a normal salary. You are Deaf, you are disabled, you have to deal with extra and unfair barriers in life, but being totally and permanently disabled in the legal sense depends on an inherent inability to work at what we would consider a bare subsistence level (or having one of a list of conditions that the government "compassionately" deems is going to get you into that state very quickly, of which colon cancer is not one--if I'm wrong about your diagnosis, please do look yours up on the "compassionate allowance" list).

(I have no doubt your friends are Deaf or that they face discrimination. That is not the standard for TPD discharge. If you're having trouble understanding the explanation here, I strongly recommend that you speak to an actual community advocate or lawyer who can explain it to you in more detail before you do something that could actually, if you were unlucky, land you in real trouble.)
posted by praemunire at 12:55 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]

Switch doctors! Use a doc who signed it for a full-time employed friend. Maybe see the doc a few times for other concerns before asking them to sign the thing. Life is too short to have some nondisabled person gatekeep your experience.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:47 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Right now TPD would not be appropriate, because you can perform “substantial gainful activity.”

However, for now look into deferment for cancer treatment.
posted by oceano at 4:48 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Switch doctors! Use a doc who signed it for a full-time employed friend.

I'm under Kaiser so can't switch to any ole doc, and don't know which doctors my friends used to certify. TBH, I now feel uncomfortable doing this anyway, because I'm worried that praemunire could be right — it could be considered fraud. I genuinely thought Deafness would be enough, and as they don't do income monitoring anymore, I thought that it wouldn't matter. I am now quite mystified on how my employed friends got approved/certified.

However, on the flip side of the coin, why did they discontinue income monitoring if they still care about SGA? Too easy to lie and get in the system, unless I'm missing something.

However, for now look into deferment for cancer treatment.

I was thinking the exact same thing! I was doing some Google earlier and found that as an option. I think I'll try that instead as a stopgap, and when/if my condition worsens to the point that I can no longer work F/T, then I'll apply for TPD.

Life is too short to have some nondisabled person gatekeep your experience.

I agree and love that thinking! But wouldn't it be, essentially, illegal in this specific circumstance?
posted by dubious_dude at 5:53 PM on June 11

I am now quite mystified on how my employed friends got approved/certified.

Ask those friends. Just send a short message to everyone you know of who did this, asking how. 👍
posted by Elysum at 8:45 PM on June 11

Just so you know, starting in 2026 most loan forgiveness will count as taxable income at the federal level.

One exception is PSLF, for which forgiveness is always non taxable at the the federal level. I seem to recall that you work for the Feds, so perhaps that’s another forgiveness route to pursue.
posted by oceano at 4:33 AM on June 12

Just from a financial standpoint, paying out of pocket for one or two visits with a non kaiser doc might be worth it.
posted by ropeladder at 6:17 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

The criteria for TPD is here. If you're asking a doctor to certify that you meet that criteria (which you've just said you don't), you're asking them to commit fraud.

From what I can see from government documents explaining the changes, they got rid of the income certification because it ended up mostly disqualifying people who were still totally disabled but who simply didn't return the paperwork, so it was considered an undue burden, basically. It created a barrier for people who legitimately qualified. The intent was not to change the definition of what "totally and permanently disabled" means.

I have no idea why your friends qualified. There are different qualification routes -- veterans and people on SSI seems to have different criteria -- so that may be at play. Or they may have ableist doctors, or doctors more willing to commit fraud.
posted by lapis at 11:18 PM on June 13

Response by poster: I have asked my oncologist to sign the cancer deferment form and will drop/cancel the TPD process. Thanks for clarifying the requirements, I legitimately thought I would have met the criteria but it does not appear I currently do.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:11 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

(Yes, sorry, I wasn't trying to say you were consciously trying to commit fraud! I get that the government forms and definitions are confusing if you're not looking at them frequently.)
posted by lapis at 6:10 PM on June 14

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