A trailblazing new piece of bipartisan legislation could wipe away millions of dollars worth of student debt for disabled US veterans.

At the end of June, a group of representatives from both sides of the partisan divide introduced the Federally Requiring Earned Education-Debt Discharges for Veterans Act (FREED Vets Act) in the House and the Senate.

The act would automatically forgive the student loan debt of any eligible veteran who is permanently disabled.

In October 2018, the U.S Department of Education established a program with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify vets who are disabled or unable to work. Under the current program, the Department of Education then notifies veterans who are eligible for debt forgiveness of the opportunity to apply.

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More than 42,000 eligible veterans have been identified by the Department of Education, yet only 20% of those eligible have applied for the program.

The FREED Vets Act, however, would automatically forgive these loans and eliminate the paperwork barrier that prevents eligible veterans from attaining student loan debt relief.

Congressman Conor Lamb, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, who also happens to be a former Marine, introduced the legislation last month along with two Republicans from that state—Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler.

Congressman Conor Lamb with disabled veteran

“Congress has an obligation to ease the challenges our veterans face when they come home and return to civilian life,” Lamb wrote in a statement. “This important bipartisan legislation provides a clear pathway for eligible disabled veterans to receive a benefit they have earned through their service and sacrifice.”

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Reschenthaler added: “As a veteran, I’m proud to join with my colleagues to introduce legislation that streamlines student loan forgiveness for disabled veterans. These men and women served on the front lines defending our nation, and this bill will cut the red tape that stops them from receiving their benefits. I look forward to working with my colleagues in support of our nation’s heroes.”

The automatic discharge of student loan debt for eligible disabled veterans has been supported by multiple veterans groups and tax law experts, as well as 51 state attorneys general.

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