TREA weekly update Newsletter (12/4/2018)

December 4, 2018
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 Inside this issue
TREA “The Enlisted Association” Washington Update
TREA “The Enlisted Association” Washington Update
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie – Statement on the Passing of President George H.W. Bush

All of America’s veterans are saddened by the passing of President George H. W. Bush. His courage in combat was special even during the war in the Pacific, where our forces demonstrated some of the highest levels of valor and heroism in our history. When holding the highest offices in our country, he never forgot those who wore the uniform. The Department of Veterans Affairs sends its thoughts and prayers to the Bush family in remembrance of this extraordinary American.”

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Blue Water Navy Bill – Alive but on Life Support

Blue Water Navy Bill – Alive but on Life Support

Congress is very close to passing H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, which would end the injustice of denying Vietnam, Korean DMZ, and Thailand veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions the care and benefits they deserve.

Unfortunately, because of the limited time left for Congressional action this year as explained above, this important bill is now in jeopardy. Make sure your Senators support its immediate passage and encourage their colleagues to do the same.

It is especially important for veterans in Utah to contact Senator Mike Lee. His phone number is 202-224-5444. He is apparently the only Senator now holding up passage of the bill in the Senate.

Even if you don’t live in Utah call your own senators and urge them to support immediate passage of H.R. 299. The Senate cannot continue to delay passage of this important bill while Blue Water Navy veterans sicken and die from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange. It it does not pass this year we have to start all over again next year.

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President Signs Coast Guard FY2019 Authorization Bill
Because the Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, each year it has authorization and appropriations bills that have to be passed because they are not included in the Defense Department legislation.

Today (Tuesday) the President signed the recently passed Coast Guard authorization bill (S. 140). The House passed the bill last week, which would reauthorize the U.S. Coast Guard and make several changes to federal maritime policy.

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Important Information for Disabled Veterans With Student Loan Debt

Former TREA Deputy Legislative Director Mike Saunders now works for Veterans Education Success (VES), a non-profit group that is fighting on behalf of veterans in the educational arena.

Mike recently authored an article dealing with disabled veterans and their tax liability if their student loan debt is forgiven. He has given TREA permission to reprint his article. We realize this will not apply to many of TREA’s members but they may have children or grandchildren who may find this information to be very helpful.

Veterans: Know Your Rights!

100% Disabled or IU Veterans Can Now Have Their Student Loans Forgiven – FEDERAL TAX FREE

In the past, veterans who were 100 percent disabled or had a finding by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of Individual Unemployability (IU) could get their student loans forgiven, but unfortunately it was considered to be taxable income by the IRS. That meant an unexpected tax bill for people who were often completely unprepared to pay such a large amount of money, and for some people this increase in reported annual income made them ineligible for means-tested programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Good news: This is no longer the case. Now, any student loans forgiven due to disability are no longer considered income. VA and the US Department of Education are working together to make it easier for you to apply.

This is the case regardless of how old you are or how long ago you took out student loans – be sure to tell everyone you know!

As always, free lawyers at Veterans Education Success can help if you have questions about your student loans or GI Bill.

How Many Veterans Qualify?

VA and the US Education Department estimate there are more than 42,000 veterans with severe disabilities who hold a total of more than $1 billion in outstanding student loans and who may be eligible for IU student loan forgiveness.

Sadly, MORE THAN 25,000 of those veterans were in default with $168 million in outstanding loans. Defaulting on your loans hurts your credit score and can cause a lot of financial trouble. If you are facing default, get some free help from national veteran organizations or Veterans Education Success lawyers.

Are You Eligible? Is Anyone You Know Eligible?

The Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have teamed up to notify severely disabled veterans who have student loans that they may be eligible to have their federal student loans forgiven, with no federal income tax penalty.

The Department of Education will be sending letters to veterans who may be able to apply for federal tax-free forgiveness of their student loans. To see what these letters will look like, click here. The letters will say that they are from the Department of Education and Nelnet, the servicer administering the IU student loan forgiveness process. If you get a letter from someone else, beware because it could be a scam.

The Department of Education and Nelnet manage a website, disabilitydischarge.com, to provide resources and more information on how to start your discharge application online. Even though it is a “.com” website, this is the website that Nelnet uses to help Department of Education Borrowers. You can trust this website.

  • This is a free service and you do not have to pay any fees for the application.
  • Ignore any services claiming they can help you to get your student loans forgiven for a fee, as they are scams.
  • Free lawyers are available to help you at Help@VeteransEducationSuccess.Org

If You Get One of These Letters

  • Apply online at disabilitydischarge.com (if you received the letter, you do not have to submit documentation of your service-connected disability since the Department of Education already has obtained this information from the VA).
  • You can call Nelnet seven days a week at 1-888-303-7818 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time or email disabilityinformation@nelnet.net for any questions or to get the process started.

Once the Department of Education receives your application, they will instruct the bank or other loan holder to suspend collection activity on your current student loans for 120 days while your application is being reviewed to determine if you qualify for student loan forgiveness.

More good news – you can even get back payments you already made! When your student loans are forgiven, your loan servicer must refund all loan payments made after the effective date of the VA’s determination of your service-connected disability. If you have questions about TPD or the process, feel free to reach out to your student loan servicer for more information.

If You Are Eligible but Didn’t Receive a Letter

  • The Department of Education will work with the VA to conduct a new match of veterans with severe disabilities with the student loan database to identify more borrowers that may be eligible. Veterans will receive notices on a staggered basis each quarter.
  • If you or someone you know may be eligible for TPD student loan forgiveness and haven’t received a notification letter, you can find more information or start a TPD student loan forgiveness application at www.disabililtydischarge.com, following the steps above. You will have to provide evidence of your service-connected disability online.

Tell Us If You Are Designated IU by the VA AND in Default on Your Student Loans

If you are 100 percent disabled or have been determined to be Individually Unemployable (IU) by the VA and you are in default on your student loans – YOU HAVE RIGHTS. The Department of Education should have notified you of them BEFORE you defaulted on your student loans.

If this happened to you, please reach out to Mike Saunders at Veterans Education Success (mikesaunders@veteranseducationsuccess.org, cell: 703-597-9423). We want to help you get your money back and force the Department of Education to do a better job of notifying veterans of their rights. This should not have happened to you!

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