Best Military Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Jocelyn Segoviano
Jocelyn Segoviano

Jocelyn Segoviano is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance topics. With a passion for helping individuals navigate their financial journeys, she has been providing insightful advice and practical tips to readers for over years.

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Daniel Kahn
Daniel Kahn
Daniel is the co-founder and COO at Sparrow. Daniel is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company, working closely with other members of the executive team to develop and implement strategies to support the growth and success of the company.
Daniel was a 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 lister in the Education category.  Daniel was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from Duke University in 2020.
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Camden Ford
Camden Ford

Camden leads Sparrow’s business operations – everything from product management to business analytics. After graduating Cum Laude from Duke University where he studied Civil Engineering, Camden worked as a Consultant for A.T. Kearney where he worked in their Strategic Operations practice. With a strong background in analytics, Camden strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

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November 13, 2023

If managing your student debt is becoming a challenge, you aren’t alone. As a veteran or active duty service member, there are various options to help you manage your student loan debt such as military student loan forgiveness programs. 

Here are some of the best military student loan forgiveness programs you should know about.

Military Student Loan Forgiveness Programs 

Student loan forgiveness programs are federal government programs that cancel your student loans. The exact amount each program will cancel and the requirements for such depend on the program itself. Some of these programs are directly tailored for military service members. 

National Defense Student Loan Discharge

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge is for students who have served in the military. To qualify, you must have served for 12 consecutive months in a duty station that qualifies you for imminent danger or hostile fire pay. You also must have Federal Perkins Loans or Direct Loans to be eligible.

The amount of debt that will be discharged will vary. Contact your loan company for more information on how much debt you can get discharged. 

To apply, you’ll need to fill out a Department of Defense form and send it to your loan servicer. You must also submit a letter explaining why you think you qualify. Contact your lender for information on how to get started. 

Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

The Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge is a forgiveness program available to those with a service-related disability. This program will release you from your loans and is available for most types of loans. 

To qualify, you must prove that you are permanently disbaled. You’ll need to submit documentation from the Department of Veteran Affairs showing that you have a service-related disability and are unemployable due to that disability. After securing that documentation, contact Nelnet, the company that assists the Department of Education with this program, for more information on your options if you believe you are eligible.

 To apply, fill out the application available on the Federal Student Aid website. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program designed to forgive the student loans of public service workers, including military members and veterans. The PSLF Program will forgive all of your remaining debt after you meet the eligibility requirements for the program. 

To qualify, you must work full-time for a qualifying U.S. government employer, or a tribal government, or a non-profit organization. You have to make 120 on-time payments under a qualifying repayment plan on your loans before you can get your loans forgiven. Additionally, these payments must have started after October 1, 2007. 

While Direct Loans are the only federal loan type that qualify, you can consolidate other federal loans into a Direct Consolidation loan to qualify instead.

To apply, fill out a PSLF form and an employment certification form. The application and the employment form should be sent to FedLoan Servicing. 

Other Ways to Manage Your Student Loan Debt as a Member of the Military 

If you don’t meet the requirements for any of the above military student loan forgiveness programs, don’t fret. There are still other things you can do to help manage your student loans. 

Opt In to an Income-Driven Repayment Plan 

An Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan is a federal loan repayment option. It bases your monthly payment on a percentage of your discretionary income as opposed to your loan amount. 

There are currently four different IDR plans available to students with federal student loans. They are Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay as you Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay as you Earn (REPAYE), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR). These IDR plans are great because it makes it easier to pay back your loans. 

Talk to your federal loan servicer about how to get started with an IDR plan.

Refinance Your Loans for a Lower Interest Rate

Another option you have to manage your debt is to refinance your student loans. Refinancing is the process of a lender paying off your loans and giving you a new loan with better terms. While you can refinance both federal and private student loans, it is an especially good option for private student loans. Unlike federal loans, private loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness programs or income-driven repayment plans. If you do decide to refinance your federal student loans, you will lose out on federal benefits.  

Qualified applicants will need at least a good credit score and stable income. To get started, use Sparrow. Sparrow is a student loan search tool that connects you with lenders. Many of our partnering lenders offer great refinancing options. By filling out our application, you’ll get matched with what you best qualify for. 

Cap Your Interest Rate Through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act 

With the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, you can cap your interest rate on your student loans. This means that during an active duty period, the highest interest rate you can be charged is 6%. 

This benefit only applies, however, to loans taken out before your active duty service. For federal loans, this means you must have been in active duty status on or after August 1, 2008. Private student loans do not have this restriction. Additionally, there are no fees or charges that will be made with this benefit. 

To get started, fill out the application online or download the form and mail it to Navient. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Student Loan Forgiveness 

  1. Do Military Members Qualify For PSLF? Yes, military members do qualify for PSLF. To be eligible for PSLF, you need to be a public service worker. A public service worker is anyone who works full-time for a qualifying U.S. employer. The military would be a qualified U.S. employer.
  1. Do You Pay Student Loans While Deployed? No. You can get military service deferment on your federal loans if you are called to active duty. The military service deferment is limited to 60 months and 180 days after discharge from service. Talk to your student loan servicer to get a deferment request form. 
  1. Do Veterans Have to Pay Back Student Loans? Yes, they do. All student loans have to be paid back unless you qualify for forgiveness programs such as PSLF. 

Final Thoughts from the Nest

If you are finding your student debt tricky to handle as a service member, know that there are a variety of military student loan forgiveness programs available to you as well as other options to help you manage your debt. If you decide to go with the option of refinancing, remember that here at Sparrow, we’ve got your back. To get started, fill out the Sparrow application.

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