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Education Department Adopts Crucial Reform for Disabled Borrowers

After an investigation and public pressure, the department has conducted a sweeping overhaul of its troubled disability review program.

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She said the department's decision to heed popular demand was an "example of public comments working exactly as it should."

When the new system comes into effect, disabled borrowers will be able to submit award letters from Social Security as proof of their disability. If the award letter says the beneficiary is not scheduled for a medical review for at least 60 months — five years — that means that the borrower has a long-term disability and is immediately eligible to discharge federal loans. (Social Security award letters simply tell you how long it will be until your next disability review, not that they have classified you as "Medical Improvement Not Expected.")

Borrowers with more frequent Social Security medical reviews — which correspond to the categories "Medical Improvement Expected" and "Medical Improvement Possible" — will still have to undergo a medical review by the Education Department in order to discharge their loans.

Sasha Chavkin has previously written for Mother Jones, the Nation and Grist.