Sep 15, 2014

Why Are So Many Student Loans Being Collected From People On Social Security Disability Benefits?

     The Government Accountability Office (GAO) did a recent study on the collecting of student loan debts from Social Security benefits. The chart below is from that study.

     Obviously, most of the student loan debt that the Social Security Administration collects comes from disability benefits. Under the Department of Education's own regulations, these student loan debts are supposed to be discharged if the debtor is "permanently impaired." The Department of Education has interpreted "permanently impaired" to include anyone found disabled by the Social Security Administration who has a five to seven year review date, a group that Social Security classifies as Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE). That's a fair number of younger disabled people. It would be easy for Social Security to identify student loan debtors who are in the MINE category and notify the Department of Education so that no more money would be improperly withheld from the Social Security disability benefits of these disabled people and, indeed, so that all other collection efforts would be ended for this group of people. I'm pretty sure this isn't being done. Why not? If data matches can be done to collect debts, why can't data matches be done to stop inappropriate debt collection?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This problem will get exponentially worse as many people (mostly in the margins economically) start online degrees and never finish them. Many students now take out federal loans that not only pay for school, but also pay for the cost of living. However, a large portion never complete their degree and are saddled with debt without any real job prospects.

Anonymous said...

Charles you are unbelievable. You constantly, and I admit often fairly, complain about the level of SSA service. As I field office CR I acknowledge this and wish it was better. However, adding another task for SSA is not the answer here. These debtors have a personal responsibility to address their student debt problems. If they ask SSA for information about their disability to show to the Federal Department of Education, that's great. I would gladly provide it. That being said, it should not be SSA's responsibility to create an interface to resolve this for student loan debtors automatically. These debtors need to take charge of their lives and if they can get their loans discharged they should seek it out the documentation from the appropriate sources. It should be no one else's task to do all the work for them. I'm all for helping the poor and needy, that's why I joined this agency. But we cannot do everything for everybody all the time. We are understaffed, overwhelmed, and often poorly trained as it is. We do not need another task and new regulations to already complicate an overwhelmed field office structure. Just my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

@7:08

Seriously? You'd prefer that the disabled individual "take charge" of their case, and come into the office where you will gladly take care of them in your copious free time rather than have central office types build something between the two agencies that will reduce if not eliminate the need for you to take that action? Having DOED ask us periodically for an electronic listing of DIB beneficiaries who meet the criteria would save DOED time and money pursuing debts that ought not be pursued and keep people out of the FO. Given SSA is likely the primary source for the documentation because we set the medical diary, such an action likely avoids unnecessary FO visits.

Anonymous said...

unless you create a system wherein individuals have to do nothing--I mean literally nothing--you are never going to cut down on a huge percentage of persons' visits to SSA field offices. Ever. Some folks just want to come in for everything.

Anonymous said...

I would rather see SSA's programmers spending their precious time coming up with solutions to our harder problems - SSI couples and start date records - rather than figure out how to help a small percentage of recipients get out of paying their valid debt.

Just because someone is disabled with a five year diary shouldn't automatically mean that they no longer have to pay back money that they borrowed. Next thing will be appeals on the diary date.

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