What happens to your student loan debt if you become unable to work? It depends on both the type of loan you have and what kind of disability benefit you receive.
SSI benefits, which are paid as part of a need based disability program, cannot be garnished to repay student loan debt.
But SSDI benefits can be. In 2013, the number of people under the age of 65, who were having their SSDI Benefits garnished to repay student loans, grew to an all time high of 119,000 individuals.
If you are found, “Totally and Permanently Disabled” certain types of federal student loans can be forgiven. This is not the same as SSA’s definition of disability, but the Department of Education will accept the notice of SSA award as proof if the notice of award indicates that the claim will be reviewed every 5-7 years. The 5-7 year review is what SSA assigns to claims that they deem to be permanent or where no medical improvement is expected to occur.
If your notice of award doesn’t have the review schedule, you can contact SSA and request a printout verifying the continuing disability review schedule.