National Defense Student Loan Discharge

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge Program

There are a variety of excellent Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Military Personnel, but none quite as easy to qualify for as the National Defense Student Loan Discharge program.

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge program was created to provide debt forgiveness to individuals who used either a National Defense Student Loan or a Federal Perkins Loan to finance their college education.

While the program doesn’t offer a full (100%) discharge, it does provide for some pretty significant loan cancellations, depending on how much you qualify for.

To receive an NDSLD discharge, you must first complete at least one full  year of service in one of the branches of the United States Armed Forces, and that year of service must have included an entire year of being deployed to a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been underway for so many years now, it’s highly likely that more than a few of our Veterans are eligible for this benefit program.

How do I Apply for a National Defense Discharge?

Unfortunately, the process for applying to the National Defense Student Loan Discharge program is relatively murky, and requires that you send a copy of your DD214 military discharge form along with an explanation of why you believe you qualify for the program to whoever is servicing your eligible loan.

In your letter of explanation, simply refer to the existence of the program, explain your service in the military, and discuss some of the basics of what you were doing during the time you were deployed to the hostile fire or imminent danger pay area.

It’s highly likely that your lender will have a formalized process which kicks in as soon as they receive the letter, but be prepared to trade a couple phone calls and emails before receiving your full discharge benefit.

Get More Information

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge is definitely a valuable program worth taking advantage of, but did you know that you can save tens of thousands of dollars on education expenses with the Post 9/11 GI Bill and it’s suite of additional benefits? Find out how to maximize your military benefits by viewing our Guide to Education Benefit for Military Personnel.

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Tim's experience struggling with crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on paying off student loans as quickly, and cheaply, as possible. His new website Forget Tax Debt, offers similar advice to people with back tax problems.

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  1. I did 2 tours to Afghanistan during this war my only question is one tour was 7 months and the other was 9 months. do i qualify or does it have to be one solid year?

  2. Vanessa Siderias says:

    I called the Student Loan Ombudsman Group today and they have never heard of it. Neither have my loan companies. So if anyone has any other advice or information, that would greatly be appreciated!

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Thanks for reporting this back to me. It’s possible that this program has been defunded. After the recent cuts to the Basic Allowance for Housing benefit, and several reports that the Air Force CLRP Benefit has also been wiped out, it’s definitely possible that this program has also been wiped out.

    • Allan Dollison says:

      I have done done research and it appears this forgiveness relates only to the specific National Defense Student Loan created in the 1950s to compete with the Russian Space program. It appears that military service forgiveness relates to only that loan and not others regardless of military service.


    I contacted my loan servicer – Navient and they have no knowledge of The National Defense Student Loan Discharge. What do i do?

    I meet all the requirements for the program

    • Hi Darby,

      Check with the Student Loan Ombudsman Group by calling 1-877-557-2575. They should be able to tell you what your options are. It’s possible that whoever you spoke to at Navient doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but it’s also possible that this program has been suspended. It’s one of the smaller benefits packages out there, so changes to it could have slipped under my radar (easily).

      Please come back to let me know what you find out. If it’s been suspended, or cancelled, I’d like to update this page to alert everyone of that.

  4. I did not serve in the current wars, but did serve one year over seas and received what they called hazardous duty pay. Is that the same?

  5. I have over a year in combat. Where can I sign up?

    • Hi Dennis,

      Thank you for your service! The application instructions are in the content of the page you read. You need to send a letter of explanation and a copy of your DD214 to whoever services your loan. In the letter, explain why you qualify (say that you are aware this program exists and that you qualify for it because you were deployed in a hostile fire/imminent danger pay area for whatever period of time you were there, and provide the dates you were there).

      If you have questions, contact your loan servicer and ask them what their process is for handling these requests.

  6. Thank you for all the good info. I am a veteran of the Iraq war and I served well over a year there. Also, i have 50k in student loans because I joined the national guard and not the regular Army. However, I spent the same amount of time there and did the same thing as the reguIar Army guys. I want to make a request to my lender for some sort of loan help that can come from the The National Defense Student Loan Discharge program.

    The only fear i have, is that aside from the information your site (and a couple of sites like yours), I have no knowledge of the program. My question is, who administers this program? Is it the VA? Do you know of any place I can get more information or someone I can contact?

    Thank you

    • Hi Eric,

      Whoever services your loan is legally obligated to provide you with the latest information about this program, so I would reach out to them.

      Thank you for your service, and good luck!

  7. So I am just shy of one full year in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area. Are there other options for me?

    • Hi Jacob,

      Unfortunately, not really. The problem with Federal financial assistance programs is that they to tend take an an all-or-nothing approach, and either you’re eligible, or you’re not.

      Wish I had better news, but from what I’ve seen, I don’t think there’s any way to qualify for the program without fully satisfying it’s eligibility conditions.

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