LOUISVILLE, Ky. — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he was signing an executive order to erase all federal loan debt owed by veterans who are permanently and totally disabled.
Speaking at the American Veterans (AMVETS) 75th National Convention in Louisville, Trump said he would sign a memorandum “directing the Department of Education to eliminate every penny of federal student loan debt” owed by those veterans.
“They have made a sacrifice that's so great,” Trump said. “And they're such incredible people. And they never complain. They never complain. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt held by our severely wounded warriors. It's gone forever.”
Trump also announced there would be no federal income tax on the forgiven debts and called upon all 50 states to “immediately waive all applicable state taxes as well.”
Katherine Castle, a veteran who served in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, joined Trump as he made his announcement. Despite serious health conditions related to her service, Trump said, Castle continues to pursue a degree at the University of Nevada.
“This is an amazing relief on my family, as well as, I know, many thousands of veterans as well,” Castle said. “Thank you.”
Jon Reiss, the executive director of Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission, spoke to News 5 on Wednesday about the impact this executive order would have on eligible veterans.
“We were a little surprised by it cause it came out of the blue,” Reiss said. “But the truth is we’re excited, right? Anything that is a benefit for our veterans, that is going to help them have long-term sustainability, specifically those individuals with permanent and total disabilities.”
Reiss said that while the Veterans Service Commission doesn’t have specific programs to help with student loan debt, this executive order would be a benefit for veterans who have occupational barriers due to permanent and total disabilities.
“Hopefully what we’ll see is less people who are needing to rely on emergency assistance or other programming, whether it be county or federal programs, and be able to survive more on their own,” Reiss said.
Reiss, a veteran with student loan debt himself, said he knew family and friends who are still working but who could see benefits from this executive order. Some of them, he noted, were permanently and totally disabled, while others may eventually be designated as permanently and totally disabled.
“I’m sure they’re excited about how that will help them and their family kind of make another transition and step, because they get some more expendable income to pour right back into the economy,” Reiss said.
Reiss said he would like to see this expanded to veterans with disabilities “across the board,” regardless of their level of disability.
“I don’t know how likely that will be, but all in all, that’d be an ultimate goal,” Reiss said. “That’d be great if this was just a stepping stone to that.”