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My Brain Infection Left Me in Decades of Student Loan Debt

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

I went to a community college about 22 years ago. In order to go I had to take out several loans in the last 6 months of my college life I became extremely ill. I contracted a brain infection that left me with no memory of what I even took in college. I am permanently disabled from the infection. I have never been able to repay the loans that I had to take, and for the last 20 years they have taken my income tax returns. Not the state, but always my federal returns.

My question is how long are they allowed to keep taking the return?? I thought after 7 years they just had to eat the loan. Knowing I did not have the to repay it? Now they are threatening to garnish my wages. I am a provider for my 22 year old autisic daughter. The government gave my daughter a grant to hire someone to teach her how to live life on her own.



Dear Bonnie,

I’m so glad you reached out to me for help. I’m so sorry to hear this situation has persisted for so long. So let’s resolve this quickly.

It sounds to me the student loans in question were federal student loans. That’s the only way your federal tax refund could be intercepted.

If you have received a diagnosis of permanent disability then you should apply for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge of your student loans. When you qualify for this program your qualifying student loans will be wiped away completely and tax free. You can get more information and learn about the application process by clicking here.

On the off chance you don’t qualify for a TPD discharge, there are some other programs you may be qualified for to reduce your loan payment based on any income you receive. There would be some additional steps to qualify for this program since your loans are in default and the age of the loans might create a technical hurdle. I’d have to look into that further if that’s the route you elected. For more information on those programs, click here.

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But to answer your seven year question, it is a federal student loan so they can collect forever unless you take action to get this under control.


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.

About the author

Steve Rhode

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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