I’m Disabled and Chronically Ill. How Do I Deal With My Student Loans?


Dear Steve,

I am 25 and have been diagnosed with 5 different chronic illnesses and diseases. Most of them have to do with my nervous system and severe chronic pain.

I have been sick for 11 years but only got 3 of the diagnoses in the past 6 months. I recently had to drop out of school due to these illnesses worsening to the point where I can hardly leave my house.

I don’t have disability but want to apply, however, I don’t know how many tries it will take me to get it, so it could take years.

I have student loans that I can’t pay.

I have federal student loans and Sallie Mae loans.

I can’t work and I’ve lost my chance at the career I was trying to make because I couldn’t finish school.

I do not know if my health will improve or not.

Lately I’ve watched myself steadily decline while I pursue treatment. Trying to get better is a full-time job and with chronic illnesses, there’s a slim chance I’ll get much better at all. it’s all I can do to go to doctor appointments and figure out my next steps medically and figure out how to pay for that. I had to move back in with my mom. I have credit but almost no money in the bank.

What are my options? these loans have me so stressed out I can’t even think about it or it will make me sicker.



Dear Anna,

I’m so sorry to hear about the hurdle you’ve been facing. The advice below should help to give you some path towards dealing with the loans.

For the federal loans, you should make sure they are consolidated into a Direct Loan and then opt for an income-driven repayment plan.To get an idea of what your new monthly payment would be under one of those programs, you can use the Repayment Estimator.

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Once you get those federal loans under control you can then begin the path towards a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge. You can click here for more information.

If you are approved, the full balance of your federal student loans may be forgiven.

If you have any private student loans you have to follow a different path. I’d touch base with an attorney you specializes in private student loans. The goal would be to see if any of your private student loans have any technical issues. Otherwise, you are probably looking at the advice in Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Paying Your Unaffordable Private Student Loan.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

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Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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