At the 75th national AMVETS convention, President Trump promised to untangle the bureaucratic red tape that’s holding up student debt forgiveness for disabled American veterans. The executive action would speed up the ability of Vets to take advantage of a plan that is already on the books.
The action, said Trump, would “make sure our wounded warriors are not saddled with mountains of student debt.” The president told an approving crowd that “every penny” of an estimated 25,000 veterans debt loan must be absolved. Mr. Trump’s actions are designed to expedite this process for the disabled men and women who served in the armed forces and are still paying on student loans.
The memo to the Secretary of Education underscored the problem. It reads:
“For the last decade, veterans seeking loan discharges have been required to submit an application to the Secretary of Education with proof of their disabilities obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The process has been overly complicated and difficult and prevented too many of our veterans from receiving the relief for which they are eligible. This has inflicted significant hardship and serious harm on these veterans and has frustrated the intent of the Congress that their Federal student loan debt be discharged.”
Thus far, only 20% of those who qualify have taken advantage of the program known as Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (TPD).
During his speech, the president went on to highlight efforts by his administration to improve the lives of American veterans. He listed expansion of mental health services for vets, the firing of over 7,000 workers not providing proper medical care, and reducing wait times at VA hospitals.
As well, more of those who have served are finding jobs. During Trump’s tenure in office, veteran unemployment has dropped dramatically to an all-time low of 3.4%. In 2011 the unemployment rate for veterans stood at 9.9%. Asserting “you are not forgotten,” Trump appeared to be laying the groundwork for a “promises kept” posture in the upcoming 2020 election cycle. That it is important to a president to keep his campaign promises is certainly a positive signal to veterans as well as the voters in general.
Still Not Happy
As the president’s remarks regarding the cutting of red tape for disabled servicemen and women were made to the AMVETS in Louisville, KY, protesters outside the venue held up placards decrying Trump for “destroying our democracy.” Some registered their disapproval of the president’s ban on transgender people in the military.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) couldn’t resist taking a jab at the president. “I’ll give this president credit when he moves the ball forward, but behind the scenes, his administration is going well out of its way to make it harder for people to go to college and earn a degree without mountains of crushing debt.”
This larger issue that Yarmuth alludes to in his comment – that of student loan debt nationwide – has been a persistent Democratic theme in the debates and on the campaign trail. Both Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have spoken passionately in favor of wiping out this debt. The student loan forgiveness load, however, is astronomical, and fiscal conservatives have balked at such a proposal. Estimates are that there is currently $1.6 trillion (with a “T”) outstanding in student loans nationwide.