LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today joined a coalition of 52 Attorneys General urging the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connection with their military service.

Last year DOE identified more than 42,000 veterans as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability, the Attorneys General note in their letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, however, and more than 25,000 had student loans in default.

“We are truly honoring our American warriors by taking action to support those who have served and paid a tremendous sacrifice for our freedoms,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By taking action to automatically discharge student loans for military veterans who are permanently disabled by their service, we are providing financial relief to the service member and their families during the most trying of circumstances. The least we could do as a nation is provide them with that financial relief.”

The letter, which was co-led by New Jersey and Utah Attorneys General called on DOE to develop a process to automatically discharge the student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible for such relief. While the automatic discharge process is in development, the letter proposes, DOE should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans, and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans.

Under federal law, DOE is required to discharge the federal student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be unemployable (or totally and permanently disabled) due to a service-connected condition. Although DOE currently requires disabled veterans to take affirmative steps to apply for a loan discharge, those steps are not required by law.