I Have a Mental Problem That Leaves Me Unable to Pay My Student Loans


Dear Steve,

I have a mild psychiatric disorder, and I have my total and permanent disability form accepted. However, I found out that for a three year monitoring period, if I make money over the poverty level, in three years I will have to go back to paying it back.

While I’m a responsible woman who can’t pay back because I’m currently unemployed, I don’t like how I’m told that I have to pay interest to Navient when I don’t want their services in the first place. I figure when I’m working it’s my money, I’ll pay for what I want and I don’t want to pay them interest, because I don’t want their service.

Is there a way to pay back school loan without paying interest to a company whose services, I don’t want?



Dear Christinia,

It sounds as if you were found to be eligible for the discharge of your federal student loans and Navient is the servicer of those loans.

If you were approved for a Total and Permanent Discharge based on Social Security Administration or a doctors certification then you will be required to comply with a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period.

If your discharge request was approved then your loans should have been transferred to the U.S. Department of Education to wipe out.

But during the following 3-year period your loans will be reinstated if at any time during the monitoring period you:

  • You have annual employment earnings that exceed the Poverty Guideline amount for a family of two in your state, regardless of your actual family size;
  • You receive a new William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loan, Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program loan, or TEACH Grant;
  • A disbursement of a Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, or TEACH Grant that you received before the discharge date is made, and you do not ensure the return of the full amount of the disbursement within 120 days of the disbursement date; or
  • You receive a notice from the SSA stating that you are no longer totally and permanently disabled, or that your disability review will no longer be the 5-year or 7-year review period indicated in your most recent SSA notice of award for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
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Now the bad news is if one of those things above happens your loans will be reinstated but the good news is you should not be charged interest during the time they were in discharge.

So it sounds as if there might be some confusion about the current status of your loans. If they were discharged then no interest would be payable. But if they were reinstated then your loans would be back and payable again.

Your situation is not one of wanting service from Navient but if Navient is the appointed servicer of your federal student loans and your loans are not in deferment.

And this is not dependent on if you want to boldly work, but if your income is more than the poverty guidelines. Keep in mind, income from the following sources will not count towards your income and the poverty guideline; Child Support, Federal or state assistance, Retirement Plan Income, Unemployement Benefits, or Your spouse’s income (from any source).

If you have not done so already, I would suggest you visit Benefits.gov to see what non-counting public benefits you may be eligible for to help offset the restriction on income.


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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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