47 States Ask DeVos To Forgive Disabled Veterans' Student Loans. Texas Was Not Among Them.

May 27, 2019

Texas is one of just three states that did not sign onto a letter sent Friday to Secretary Betsy DeVos asking the U.S. Department of Education to automatically forgive student loans for eligible disabled veterans. 

"As a nation, we have a moral obligation to assist those who have put their lives on the line to defend us," the letter states. It was signed by attorneys general from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. In addition to Attorney General Ken Paxton, attorneys general from Alabama and Arizona did not sign the letter.  

As of Monday morning, Paxton had not publicly commented about why Texas didn't sign on. 

The Department of Education has identified 42,000 veterans who qualify for a federal loan forgiveness program. According to the letter, the department requires veterans to take "affirmative steps" to secure forgiveness that "may prove insurmountable obstacles" for many severely disabled veterans.  

The attorneys general say those veterans have $1 billion in debt that could be forgiven and the department has an obligation under the law to "discharge the loans of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled as result of their service."

In a statement to NPR, the Education Department said it recognized the sacrifices veterans make, but that discharges could raise veterans' tax bills or inhibit them from taking out more student loans.

"While we have worked to make this process as easy and as seamless as possible for veterans, the last thing we want to do is cause unintended consequences for them," the statement said.

The attorneys general's letter said it was unlikely borrowers would prefer not to have an increase in their tax bill over their entire student loans being wiped out.

"Any concerns that some disabled veterans might not want their student loans discharged can be addressed by providing veterans notice and an opportunity to opt out of loan forgiveness or to seek reinstatement of their loans," the letter states.