Is It True My Brother With Mental Illness Can Eliminate His Student Loans? – Josh

“Dear Steve,

My younger brother has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He has fought bouts of depression, hallucinations, and paranoia for the last 5-6 years. He has been on numerous different powerful drugs to help him.

He, thank god, has finally found one that helps him with some of his symptoms but no way near is he the same person he was before. He will never be the same and will always suffer from these symptoms which is a scary thought for me.

He has acquired but lost every job that he has ever had due to this illness. He did go to college and it was near his 3rd year in school that symptoms of his schizophrenia started to develop.

He took time off of school and moved back home with my parents. After taking time off, he then somehow re-enrolled in school and finished two degrees (Associates and a Bachelors) all while being in a terrible mental state. He has been in and out of different counselors, hospitals, psychiatrists, etc. that I can’t even think of.

He has been arrested I believe two times and have numerous run-ins with the police due to his illness. Throughout this time, Sallie Mae somehow approved him of numerous loans and now he is about $55,000-60,000 in debt, jobless, and living with my parents because he has no place to go.

He grew up wanting to be a police officer and went to school for that. Due to his illness, he can’t become a police officer, yet alone even gain a job. I being the brother that I am, am always trying to look out for his best interests and am worried about him in his future life.

I had read a two articles written by you that had talked about discharging student loans through bankruptcy and came across 2:12-ap-02220 – Viramonte – Pro Se (I think that is the correct reference).

My brother’s case seems to be almost identical. Would you feel he would be elgible to have his loans discharged as well through bankruptcy? He has no assets or credit. He has nothing. He’s made a few payments, and been in forbearance a couple of times.

He will never be able to pay these loans off. If you think he has a good case, what are our next steps in this? I am not a lawyer, just a concerned brother trying to help him out of this mess.

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Thank you for reading this and your patience. I hope to hear from you and if you need anything else regarding this situation, please let me know.


Dear Josh,

The onset of his mental illness sounds about in line with many others who have contacted me for help. In fact, the average age of onset is 18 in men and 25 in women. I’ve heard from so many people where they have been impacted by this disease while in college and already had some student loans.

The stress and strain all of you are under is tremendous and a big hug goes out to you for being such a supportive brother and to you family for trying to do everything they can do to help.

In general the process for having federal student loans forgiven because of mental illness is tough, but much easier than with private student loans. One reader recently is fighting just that issue and so I am aware of how tough that is.

Your brother meets the most likely criteria for obtaining a discharge of his student loans in a bankruptcy with an adversary proceeding. This article specifically talks about the criteria and how many are able to get a discharge but never try.

The Viramonte case you mentioned is detailed in this article. In that case the consumer, who had been diagnosed with mental illness, was able to fully discharge both Sallie Mae, private student loans, and state student loan debt. So obviously it is possible. The real question is it probable in your brother’s situation.

I’m afraid that question would require that you speak with a local bankruptcy attorney who is licensed in your state.

You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and talk to them for free about your specific situation. Get the facts and then you can make an informed and educated decision if bankruptcy is right for you.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

You will want to meet with a bankruptcy attorney that has experience in dealing with student loan issues. In my experience many bankruptcy attorneys do not have this skill and have stayed away from dealing with student loans. That absolutely doesn’t mean it is not possible, as my articles on this show. Give that link to your bankruptcy attorney.

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Even though Viramonte was able to get the loans discharged there is no way I would suggest filing bankruptcy without a lawyer. The issues dealing with the student loans may be different and unique but you want to make sure everything else is perfect when filing and the ultimate best way to do that is with representation by a local attorney who is licensed in your state. It is money well spent. While some people can do it successfully themselves, many just screw it up.

But based on the facts as you laid them out and with help from a local bankruptcy attorney, I think you probably have a reasonable shot and having the student loans discharged completely with a bankruptcy filing and an accompanying adversary proceeding.

Let’s tackle these student loans and get them out of the way so you and your family can focus more on helping your brother with all the other things in life.

Below you will find a number of bankruptcy resources you can use to help you on this journey.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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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