Student Loan Forgiveness Proposed for the Disabled and Elderly

On Wednesday, Reps. Adam Schiff, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Jamaal Bowman from New York, and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida introduced legislation to eliminate student loan debt for disabled and elderly individuals.

The Student Loan Relief for Medicare and Social Security Recipients Act would fully relieve Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance participants of all student loan debt that dates back more than 20 years – for both current recipients and future enrollees. 

According to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) data from 2019,  More than 3 million Americans ages, 60 and older, collectively owed more than $86 billion in unpaid student loans – up from $66.7 billion in 2017. While the Biden administration’s efforts to forgive up to $20,000 per individual would significantly reduce that burden, individuals ages 50 to 61hold an average of $43,444 in student loan debt, more than double the maximum relief amount.

Student loan debt is particularly crushing for disabled and older individuals, who have extensive health care and other costs they must counterbalance with debt repayment.

“Student loan debt is one of the greatest barriers to economic mobility in this country – an albatross around the neck that often weighs heaviest as people enter what should be their golden years. In a society and workforce that prizes higher education, we should be doing everything we can to make these pursuits more affordable and accessible, instead of the reason someone cannot buy a home, save for retirement, or pay for lifesaving medical care later in life,” said Schiff. “We should eliminate as much student debt as we can for everyone, but especially for those who have spent decades of their lives working to pay it off. This bill would ensure that instead of triaging their benefits, seniors and disabled individuals can focus more on their health, their families, and thriving in their best years.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), André Carson (Indiana), Jimmy Gomez ( California), and Marie Newman (Illinois) and is endorsed by the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Center for Law and Social Policy, Justice in Aging, National Disability Rights Network and Social Security Works.