I am a member of the military on active duty (or about to go on active duty). What options exist to help me deal with my student loans?
There are several forms of loan relief available to active-duty servicemembers and National Guard members activated under federal orders, and they vary based on military status and circumstance. The good news is that some of these benefits are retroactive.
If you are currently serving on active duty you are eligible to have the interest rate lowered to 6% on all student loans taken out prior to your military service. This benefit applies to both your federal and private (non-federal) student loans and is available for all active duty servicemembers, regardless of where you serve. Most borrowers on active duty will qualify for this benefit, so it makes sense to start here.
To obtain an interest rate reduction under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), contact your servicer and ask about this option directly. You will need to send a written request to your servicer, and will also need to provide your servicer with a copy of your orders calling you on to active duty. You can submit your request anytime during your active duty service and up to 180 days after leaving service.
For borrowers with federal student loans Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is one of the best options to staying on the road of repayment. IBR ties your payment to your income and family size. If you plan to work in the military or another area of public service for ten year and make the necessary monthly payments, you can have your remaining loan debt forgiven. It is important to enter into IBR as soon as possible; each qualifying monthly payment gets you closer to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
You may also qualify for loan deferment, forbearance, cancellation, suspension of interest accrual, or other relief on federal student loans during active-duty military service. Whether such relief is available to you will depend on the nature of your service and the type of loan you have.
Contact your Judge Advocate General (JAG) for assistance. A JAG can help you properly word your request and make sure you meet the technical requirements set forth in the Act. To find the JAG attorney nearest to you, use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator.