President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday allowing automatic forgiveness of student loan debt for more than 25,000 permanently and totally disabled veterans.
The average debt estimated by the Department of Education was some $30,000 per veteran, Trump said.
Congress in 2008 passed a law entitling these vets to have their student loans discharged. But while more than 42,000 were deemed eligible as of last year, fewer than 9,000 had filed an application required by the Department of Education.
The change will make that wiping out of debt automatic unless, for tax purposes, an eligible veteran opts out of the program.
In signing the order, Trump on Wednesday said the action “would ensure our wounded warriors are not saddled with mountains of student debt.” He called these disabled vets those who have made “immense sacrifices” for their country.
On the eve of last Memorial Day weekend, state attorneys general from across the country joined a petition seeking the automatic loan forgiveness for military veterans with total and permanent disabilities.
Led by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a Democrat, the letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requested automatic discharge of these debts.
“Collectively, these veterans carry over $1 billion in dischargeable student loan debt — nearly $24,000 each on average,” the letter stated.
Reyes, in a news release issued Wednesday, appeared to take personal credit for the president’s action.
“In direct response to Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes’ call to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled because of their military service, President Donald J. Trump today signed an order to do so," the release said.
The statement did go on to say that “Reyes led a bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General (50 states and Guam) alongside New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal” in sending the letter last May.
In a prepared statement, Reyes said, “I am extremely pleased at today’s [executive] action to automatically forgive student loans for permanently disabled U.S. Veterans. I can’t think of a more deserving group of individuals than American heroes who have served, risked their lives and sacrificed their health to protect our nation.”
Reyes’ chief civil deputy, Brian Tarbet, is retired as a major general and the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. He pointed to the many Utah veterans who suffer total and permanent disabilities, adding “discharging their student loan debt is simply the right thing to do.”
“I personally know of military families in this situation who could benefit from this kind of assistance but would never ask for it,” Target said, adding that the change would help them achieve a better life "after the life-changing sacrifices they made.”
Neither Trump nor Education Secretary Betsy DeVos mentioned the letter from attorneys general in announcing the executive order.