The Biden administration’s actions for borrowers with disabilities were “minimal,” the rights group said.

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Advocacy groups are urging the Department of Education (ED) to write off $ 8 billion in student debt from nearly 518,000 borrowers who are permanently and permanently disabled.

Groups sent letter Education Secretary Miguel Cardone on Friday morning, stating that the department’s existing rules “unnecessarily prevent qualified borrowers from accessing and continuing to cancel the loan.”

ED confirmed to Yahoo Finance that the agency received the letter and did not provide additional comments.

The groups also urged ED to amend the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) rules to “automatically repay debts for all known eligible student borrowers with full and permanent disabilities.”

ED recently paid off student debt for 41,000 borrowers who were previously allowed to write off debt but their loans were recovered during the pandemic. ED also canceled paperwork for an additional 190,000 borrowers.

“When they announced they were going to make a big announcement about TPD, we thought there was going to be something meaningful,” said Alex Elson, senior advisor to the National Student Advocacy Network, who was among the groups that sent the letter. Yahoo Finance told Yahoo Finance, “And this 40,000 announcement was really minimal – minor.”

US President Joe Biden walks the boardwalk during the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, South West England, June 11, 2021 (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden walks the boardwalk during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, southwest England, June 11, 2021 (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP)

As of April 2021, there were approximately 818,000 total and permanent disability debtor students identified by government agencies to pay off debts since 2016, according to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request filed by Student Defense and provided by Yahoo Finance.

Since 2016, just over 300,000 of these student debtors have paid $ 8.8 billion in student debt, while nearly 518,000 borrowers with $ 8 billion in debt are still awaiting relief.

“This is truly a parody that the US Department of Education is aware of the hundreds of thousands of borrowers with disabilities who are eligible to have their federal student loans canceled, and yet has not taken the necessary steps to provide borrowers with this vital relief,” he said. This was reported to Yahoo Finance by Persis Yu, director of the student loan assistance project at the National Center for Consumer Law. “Many of these borrowers are defaulting on their loans and will be vulnerable to tough debt collection tactics when the suspension of payments ends, even if they shouldn’t even be in debt.”

NEW HAVEN, CT - March 26: (Left to Right) US Vice President Kamala Harris and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona hold a roundtable on child poverty reduction at the New Haven Boys and Girls Club on March 26, 2021 in New Haven, CT ...  Harris travels to New Haven, Connecticut to promote the Biden administration's recent $ 1.9 billion federal stimulus package.  (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona host a Roundtable on Child Poverty Reduction at the New Haven Boys and Girls Club on March 26, 2021 in New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

‘It it was really an abomination to recover student loans during a pandemic “

Historically, federal TPD borrowers have been able to obtain debt relief through a process created by Congress in 1965

Under a program created by the Obama administration, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine the eligibility of borrowers to receive assistance and they can apply (or agree to) debt relief. If they succeed, they will be exposed to three-year monitoring period.

Since the inception of SSA’s cooperation, 818,074 borrowers have been identified as eligible for TPD payments. 300,405 received $ 8.8 billion, but the process stalled for 517,669 others.

“The bureaucracy of the Department prevents hundreds of thousands of borrowers with disabilities from receiving the benefits to which they are legally entitled,” the new letter said. “Failure to amend the rules and provide assistance before the student loan payment freeze expires on September 30, 2021, will cause significant financial damage to these hundreds of thousands of borrowers.”

President Trump has simplified the process for some by signing Decree in 2019 which called on ED to notify over 25,000 veterans who considered the department of veterans affairs be eligible for full or permanent disability exemption if they are eligible for cancellation. The order also automated the process, and now veterans are not subject to three-year monitoring.

US President Donald Trump issues an executive order exempting qualified disabled veterans from federal student loan debt after speaking at the AMVETS (American Veterans) National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.  USA, August 21, 2019 REUTERS / Bryan Woolston

US President Donald Trump issues an executive order exempting qualified disabled veterans from federal student loan debt after speaking at the AMVETS (American Veterans) National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. USA, August 21, 2019 REUTERS / Bryan Woolston

Elson noted in the Trump administration “automatically relieved the debt to veterans, but never extended that relief to ordinary citizens who are eligible under the Social Security Administration’s reconciliation process.”

Under ED’s existing arrangement with SSA, 518,000 have been identified as Medically Improved Not Expected (MINE).

“Being classified in the MINE category indicates that the person has a long-term disability, extremely limiting work, which is unlikely to improve medically,” one TPD study stated.

“The department has a list of persons who have the right [relief], but they don’t give it to them, ”Elson emphasized.

Aarti is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. She can be contacted at aarthi@yahoofinance.com. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami

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