RESTON, Va., Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Sallie Mae today announced the
creation of a new customer service initiative to better help borrowers with
disabilities or debilitating illnesses -- and their physicians -- fully comply
with federal regulations pertaining to the cancellation of loans issued
through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). These resources
will assist borrowers as they navigate the FFELP loan discharge process and
complete the forms required by the U.S. Department of Education in an
efficient and effective manner.
(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20030617/SLMLOGO-a )
"While disability discharge affects a very small number of individuals, it
affects them profoundly. Our goal is to make this process as easy and hassle-
free as possible for those who need this federal student loan benefit," said
June McCormack, executive vice president of servicing, information technology,
and sales marketing. "This is just one example of how every day we try to be
flexible and responsive to all of our customers' needs."
By law, certain qualified borrowers who become totally and permanently
disabled or whose disabilities worsen over time are permitted cancellation or
"discharge" of the borrower's (and if applicable, any endorser's) obligation
to repay the remaining loan balance. Unfortunately, filling out the paperwork
required by the federal government to participate in the disability discharge
process can be a complicated and burdensome task, particularly for individuals
who are struggling with severe health problems. Inaccuracy or incompletion
are the major causes of unnecessary -- and avoidable -- delays and rejections.
As part of this disability discharge educational campaign, Sallie Mae has
created a disability discharge Web site for borrowers and physicians,
http://www.salliemae.com/manage/disability.html. This free tool is designed
to walk borrowers step-by-step through the application process, and help
physicians complete the required documents in an accurate and timely manner.
The Web page provides users with answers to the most commonly asked questions
regarding the federal disability discharge process. Borrowers and doctors can
go to the page to download the Department's official Loan Discharge
Application for Total and Permanent Disability, and to view a sample form that
has been completed properly.
Sallie Mae has also updated and clarified the correspondence it issues to
borrowers who contact the company for guidance on this issue, and the
company's customer service staff has received in-depth training on the federal
disability discharge process and on the best way to counsel borrowers who call
"The financial aid office sometimes receives questions from student
borrowers who believe they may qualify for loan discharge due to disability,
and guiding them through that process can be confusing," said Linda F. Bell,
director of financial aid at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. "I'm pleased
Sallie Mae has developed this free resource for disabled borrowers that
provides guidance as well as the appropriate forms."
Potential beneficiaries of a federal disability discharge should be aware
that the Department of Education has its own rules and applications for
disability benefits; meeting the eligibility criteria for Social Security
benefits does not automatically qualify a borrower for discharge of his or her
student loan. To be eligible for this discharge, the borrower must provide
certification of his or her total and permanent disability (defined as "a
condition that keeps you from working or earning money because of an injury or
illness that is expected to continue indefinitely or result in death") from a
doctor of medicine or osteopathy licensed to practice in the U.S. One major
reason that applications for discharge are rejected is that doctors fail to
fully and accurately complete the application. Therefore, the Web site also
provides a detailed instructional checklist of issues for physicians to take
into consideration when filling out the Department's official loan discharge
application. In particular, it is important that a doctor state not only the
patient's diagnosis, but also provide a detailed explanation of how the
illness prevents the patient from working.
Borrowers should note that to be eligible for discharge under federal
regulation, his or her condition must not have existed at the time the loan
was made, unless the condition has substantially deteriorated so that he or
she is now totally and permanently disabled.
Borrowers in need of additional assistance are encouraged to contact
Sallie Mae directly at 888/272-5543, visit the company's disability discharge
Web site at http://www.salliemae.com/manage/disability.html, or log on to the
Manage Your Loans section of http://www.SallieMae.com to review loan status
and email questions to Sallie Mae.
SLM Corporation (NYSE: SLM), commonly known as Sallie Mae, is the nation's
No. 1 paying-for-college company, managing nearly $121 billion in student
loans for 8 million borrowers. Sallie Mae was originally created in 1972 as a
government-sponsored entity (GSE) and terminated all ties to the federal
government in 2004. The company remains the country's largest originator of
federally insured student loans. Through its specialized subsidiaries and
divisions, Sallie Mae also provides debt management services as well as
business and technical products to a range of business clients, including
colleges, universities and loan guarantors. More information is available at
http://www.SallieMae.com. SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not
sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
SOURCE Sallie Mae