Americans collectively hold $1.56 trillion in student loan debt — a number heard around the country thanks to many democratic presidential candidates who have made canceling that debt a central part of their campaign. Some of those debt-holders are also disabled veterans. President Donald Trump wants to fix at least part of that. Kind of.
The president signed an executive measure that would remove some bureaucratic barriers for permanently disabled veterans to qualify for student loan forgiveness, according to the New York Times. He said it could save around 25,000 people an average of $30,000.
In a speech on Wednesday, August 21, to the AMVETS national convention in Louisville, Trump said the disabled veterans "have made a sacrifice that is so great." He added that their debt is “gone forever,” the Washington Post reported.
Veterans with permanent disabilities have been eligible by law to have the government wipe away their federal student loans since April 2017 — but, due to mountains of bureaucracy, not many people take advantage of it. According to a Freedom of Information Act request made by Veterans Education Success, of the more than 25,000 disabled veterans who were in default on their student loans, just 8,500 had signed and returned the application to rid them of their debt, the Post reported. There are plenty of reasons so many disabled vets didn't follow through on that application — among them were confusion and fear, which, according to United Press International, caused thousands of veterans to default on their student loans.
Rick Weidman, the executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, told UPI that the Education Department didn't put "any meaningful effort" into introducing and explaining the new law.
"[The Education Department has] done a bad job — or no job at all," Weidman told UPI. "It's a source of real irritation on our part because they're putting young people in a situation where they're strapped with this huge debt for no reason."
According to a May 24 letter sent to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the attorneys general for 51 states and territories agreed with Weidman that the Trump administration itself was doing the damage that stopped many disabled veterans from getting rid of their debt to begin with.
“We now urge the Department to take action to better protect those who once protected the nation,” the letter pleaded. “Our veterans deserve nothing less.”
The executive action signed by Trump directs the Education Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to remove some of those blocks from stopping the 16,500 disabled veterans from getting rid of their debt.
This comes from a President who has a less-than-shining record on student loan debt — he proposed a 10 percent decrease in funds for the Department of Education in 2020 and literally created a university that proved to be deeply fake after it defrauded students and faced a class-action lawsuit settled for $25 million in 2017. As for his track record with the military, he banned most transgender people from serving and has taken false credit for pay raises and a number of other programs that have existed years before his presidency.