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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) If I am disabled from Autoimmune Encephalitis, Can I get student loan forgiveness?

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Frequently Asked Questions 


If I, as a student or parent became disabled because of autoimmune encephalitis, can I get forgiveness for my/my child’s student loans if the student is not able to return to school or parent unable to return to work?




Yes. If you are a student or a parent who took student loans out for a child and then developed autoimmune encephalitis, there are ways to either discharge the student loan taken out under your name, or reduce the payments. 

New Automatic Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Process


Eligible borrowers identified as totally and permanently disabled based on data matching with the Social Security Administration (SSA) will automatically have their federal student loans discharged. Borrowers no longer need to submit an application before receiving their loan discharges.

This new process will start in September 2021 and will continue quarterly afterwards. We estimate that all discharges for those borrowers who are identified in the September SSA data match will occur by the end of 2021.

If you are affected by this change, you will receive notice of your eligibility for automatic Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge in the weeks after the September data match. You will be able to opt out of the automatic discharge process.

Because of this change, more than 323,000 borrowers will receive over $5.8 billion in federal student loan relief.

To learn more about the TPD automatic discharge program and how you may benefit from this change, read the total and permanent disability discharge press release or visit the total and permanent disability discharge page.

A total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge relieves you from having to repay a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, and/or a Federal Perkins Loan or to complete a TEACH Grant service obligation.

In most cases, to qualify for a TPD discharge, you must complete and submit a TPD discharge application, along with documentation showing that you meet our requirements for being considered totally and permanently disabled, to Nelnet, the servicer that assists ED with the TPD discharge process.

How do I show that I qualify for a TPD discharge?

You can show that you qualify for a TPD discharge by providing documentation from one of three sources:

  1. the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  2. the Social Security Administration (SSA)
  3. a physician

There are specific requirements for each type of supporting documentation that you can submit to show your eligibility.

VA Documentation

If you’re a veteran, you can qualify for a TPD discharge by providing documentation from VA that shows you have received a VA disability determination because you (1) have a service-connected disability that is 100% disabling, or (2) are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating.

SSA Documentation

If you’re eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you can qualify for a TPD discharge if you provide a copy of your SSA notice of award or Benefits Planning Query showing that your next scheduled disability review will be five to seven years or more from the date of your last SSA disability determination.

Physician’s Certification

You also can qualify for a TPD discharge by having a physician certify on the TPD discharge application that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that

  • can be expected to result in death,

  • has lasted for a continuous period of at least 60 months, or

  • can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 60 months.

Substantial gainful activity is a level of work performed for pay or profit that involves doing significant physical or mental activities, or a combination of both.

The physician who certifies your TPD discharge application must be a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy/osteopathic medicine (D.O.) who is licensed to practice in the United States.

How to Apply for a Disability Discharge

If you would like to apply for a total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge, you can apply online with Nelnet, which assists in administering the TPD discharge process. 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 them at

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