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Education Department Could Do More For Student Loan Borrowers With Disabilities

Denise had no idea her student loans could be erased. In 2007, a truck rear-ended her car. The accident ravaged her legs and back, and the pain made it impossible for her to work.

“I have basically been in pain — chronic pain — every day,” says Denise, who asked that NPR not use her full name to protect her privacy. “I live a life of going to doctors constantly.”

For over half a century, student loan borrowers like Denise — with a significant, permanent disability — have been protected by federal law. If they can no longer work enough to support themselves, they can ask the U.S. Department of Education to erase their debts. But an NPR investigation has found that hundreds of thousands of potentially eligible borrowers — more than enough to fill a city the size of Pittsburgh — have yet to receive the relief they’re entitled to.