U.S. Representative Joe Courtney of District D-2 once again worked with Representative Dusty Johnson, a Republican from South Dakota, to introduce education legislation.
The Law on Recognition of Military Service in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness would allow US servicemen to count the total length of their service in calculating their student loan forgiveness. Courtney and Johnson also joined forces in late 2020 for a bill to protect federal education funding from Impact Aid for communities, including Groton and Ledyard.
In February 2019, Johnson traveled to Connecticut for the commissioning of the fast attack submarine USS South Dakota, which was commissioned in front of a crowd of around 1,400. Johnson attributes the trip in part to his relationship with Courtney.
âYou really get to know the members of Congress when you travel together,â Johnson said. “Joe was a gracious host and told me before the trip, ‘This is usually how the program works, here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re prepared – it was a level of coaching, of friendship and counseling that I don’t know if Americans realize it happens as often as it does in Congress.
The new Public Service Loan Cancellation Bill seeks to correct the practices of the United States Department of Education in making loan payments to active duty military members. Johnson and Courtney’s working relationship, their time together on the Education and Labor Committee, and their respective state’s military ties inspired the legislation.
âI’m optimistic that with Dusty representing a state with a strong military presence and my district with the largest military installation in New England, we’ll find a way to cross the finish line,â Courtney said.
Although they are currently eligible for the cancellation of civil service loans, existing rules prevent a number of active duty members who have deployed away from their families from applying their entire period of service to the cancellation. , which means that they must pass on time for their service. in order to qualify.
âThe problem is, inexplicably, that active duty doesn’t always count in this period,â Johnson said.
A law was passed in 2007 establishing the public service loan forgiveness program. It allows people in qualifying jobs – nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, for example – to enroll in income-driven repayment plans that will end in a student loan forgiveness after 10 years of qualifying service. The new bill extends coverage to new military groups, which typically include deployed active duty members and members of the National Guard.
Courtney criticized the Department of Education, which makes loan payments for the program, for not adhering to the spirit of the original law and for not counting loan deferral / forbearance periods during certain periods, including deployments up to the 10-year threshold.
âIt really has been a mess in terms of the way the department is running the program, and therefore, as GAO reported, the discharge rate for military service members is extremely low,â Courtney said.
The Government Accountability Office found that more than 175,000 military personnel could qualify for the program. But between September 2017, when the first borrowers were eligible for a loan forgiveness, and January 2020, of the more than 5,000 defense ministry military and civilians who applied, only 124 military and 163 ministry staff Defense have been approved for loan forgiveness under the law. PSLF program.
âAs of January 2020, Department of Education (Education) data shows that 287 DOD borrowers received loan forgiveness, while 5,180 DOD borrowers (about 94%) were turned down,â GAO writes. âThe most common reasons for refusals were lack of eligible payments and missing information on the form. GAO has already reported in September 2019, an overall refusal rate of 99% for all PSLF applications submitted by borrowers. More information from the DOD could help potential applicants know all the eligibility requirements.
Courtney and Johnson hope their bipartisanship and a similar bipartisan Senate bill will encourage fellow lawmakers to support the measure.
âJoe’s District is learning enough where he could drop all kinds of partisan bombs and make it seem like every Republican who has ever lived is a terrible human being and still wins his district,â Johnson said. âBut he understands that while it would be good for his political prospects, it is not good for his country. He chooses to conduct himself in a manner that is far more worthy of a member of the United States House. “
Courtney pointed out that student loans in general are a problem. President Joe Biden has said during his campaign that he will seek to cancel $ 10,000 in student loans per borrower when he takes office. He has since reconsidered this statement.
âThe Education Secretary at his confirmation hearing was fairly cautious about not taking a position, as President Biden was actually quite candid about not supporting full release, or $ 50,000,â in student loan debt, âCourtney said. âIt’s a debate we’re going to have at some point in the committee. ”