How to Qualify for $75,000 in Student Loan Forgiveness Benefits via the SUD Workforce LRP
Perhaps the only bright side of the current opioid crisis gripping the nation is that it’s led to creation of a new and excellent Student Loan Forgiveness Program for Nurses, Physicians, Pharmacists and other Medical Personnel fighting the opioid epidemic.
This program is offered by the HRSA and NHSC, and officially called the NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program, or abbreviated as the SUD Workforce LRP.
The SUD Workforce LRP program offers up to $75,000 in loan forgiveness benefits in return for 3 years of qualifying service on the front lines of the opioid crisis, making it one of the most powerful Federal Student Loan Relief Programs in existence.
Created to help entice more nurses and other health professionals to get involved in the fight against opioid drug addiction, the SUD Workforce LRP rewards individuals willing to work in underserved areas struggling to hire enough Substance Use Disorder personnel.
The program is supposed to help provide better access to medication and behavioral health counseling in these underserved areas, making it easier for people to get effective treatment for their addiction to dangerous drugs.
But Before I Explain how the Program Works…
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Benefits Offered by the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP
This program provides exceptional student loan forgiveness benefits, with up to $75,000 in total student loan repayment assistance in return for agreeing to serve for three years providing substance abuse treatment services at an NHSC-approved location.
That $75,000 max may not completely wipe out your student debt, but to be honest, this is one of the highest amounts on offer from ANY Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program, and even significantly more assistance than the best paying Military Student Loan Forgiveness Programs offer!
Perhaps the only way to qualify for a better forgiveness benefit would be taking advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the Non-Profit Loan Forgiveness Program, or the Federal, State and Local Government Employee Loan Forgiveness Program, which many Nurses are able to access, and which offers complete student loan debt forgiveness, but only after 10 years of qualifying service have been completed.
Personally, my opinion is that if you think you have any shot at getting access to the SUD Workforce LRP benefit, it’s absolutely worth pursuing.
You have to apply for and be accepted into this program before you can start working your way toward earning the benefit, but you shouldn’t even bother applying unless you satisfy the following eligibility requirements.
First, you must either already be working at, or have accepted an employment offer at a worksite approved for the NHSC SUD Workfore Loan Repayment Program.
Sites that qualify for this program include sites that have a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) score qualifies for NHSC funding, or sites that have a score too low to qualify for ordinary NHSC funding, but which would qualify for funding under their Mental Health or Primary Care HPSA score.
Second, in addition to working at a qualifying site, you must satisfy each of the following requirements:
- You must be a US citizen or United States national
- You must be a provider (or eligible to participate as a provider) in the Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
- You must be fully trained and licensed to practice in your state, in the primary care medical, dental or mental/behavioral health discipline that you’re applying to serve in
- You must have qualifying student loan debt for education costs that led directly to the degree you’re using for this role
- You may be eligible if you’re a military reservist (see the section below for details on military reservist requirements)
As I mentioned above, only some disciplines and specialties are eligible for SUD Workforce LRP.
To qualify for the benefit, you must be a provider who uses evidence-based treatment models to hep treat substance use disorders, and you must be trained and licensed to provide SUD treatment at the NHSC-approved evidence-based SUD treatment center.
That is to say, you can’t just be a regular Nurse or Medical Professional who wants to get into offering treatment or support for Substance Use Disorders; this has to be something that you’re fully trained and licensed to provide.
NHSC Approved Job Disciplines & Specialties
If you’re working in a capacity supporting SUD treatment, then there’s a good chance that your discipline or specialty qualifies you for the program, because virtually any role in the process makes you eligible for the benefit.
In fact, all of the following disciplines and specialties are eligible to apply for NHSC SUD Workforce LRP benefits:
- Nurse Practitioners
- Physician Assistants
- Certified Nurse Midwives
- Registered Nurses
- Substance Use Disorder Counselors
- Behavioral Health Professionals
As I mentioned, you don’t have to be a Nurse, a Doctor, or even a Pharmacist or some other ultra-specialty role to take advantage of this program.
Behavioral Health Professionals and Substance Use Disorder Counselors can qualify as well, making this an excellent option for people outside of the traditional “Medical” professions.
NHSC Approved Treatment Sites
What locations are on the list of NHSC Approved SUD Treatment Sites?
NHSC-approved sites must be health care facilities offering comprehensive outpatient services to populations residing in Health Professional Shortage Areas, meaning places that don’t have enough access to trained personnel who specialize in Substance Use Disorder Treatment.
Typically, this is going to be locations in either Inner Cities or Rural Areas, as most HPSAs fall into one or the other category; they’re the places that most people simply don’t want to live or work, for a variety of reasons, including poverty, poor outcomes, less pay, etc.
And that’s the big difficulty in qualifying for this program, or any others offered by the NHSC, and designed to support HPSAs – you almost always have to take a job that you wouldn’t want to work unless you were being offered a significant benefit, like $75,000 in loan forgiveness, in return for doing it.
Now, to provide a little more specific detail on how a site becomes NHSC-approved, the site itself must have demonstrated to NHSC that it meets or exceeds requirements outlined in the NHSC Site Agreement and NHSC Site Reference Guide documents, and it must have submitted the required documentation to prove it.
Here’s a list of the common types of sites that qualify under the NHSC guidelines:
- Non-opioid Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities (SUD Treatment Centers)
- Office-based Opioid Treatment Facilities (OBOTs)
- SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs)
- Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)
- American Indian Health Facilities
- State or Federal Correctional Facilities
- State or Local Health Departments
- Federaly Qualified Health Care Centers (FOHCs)
- FOHC Look-Alikes
- Critical Access Hospitals
- Community Heath Centers
- Community Outpatient Facilities
- School-based Clinics
- Private Practices
- Mobile Units and Free Clinics
If you work in a qualifying position at one of these types of centers, clinics, or facilities, then you should definitely speak to your HR team to see if they’ve taken care of the required certification pieces, and gotten approval from the NHSC for you to participate in this program!
How to Apply for SUD Workforce LRP
The SUD Workforce LRP Application Process requires quite a bit of work, and the NHSC website even estimates that it will take three weeks to complete an application, so be sure to start your process early, because this program only accepts applicants during a short time window at the beginning of the year.
First, you must submit a legible, complete online application, including all the required supporting documents, before the application deadline.
I’m not going to breakdown the application instructions individually, because there’s a ton to cover, but you can find them by going to the NHSC’s official “Application Requirements” document here.
Next, in order to verify that your application is valid, you’ll have to submit a bunch of supporting documents, including things like:
- Proof of your status as a US Citizen or US National – You can use a Birth certificate, current US Passport, or a Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization
- Verification of your Loan details – You’ll need to provide two documents for each loan that you submit, including an Account Statement, and a Disbursement Report
- You may also need to include “Supplemental Documentation”, including, Geriatrics Certification, Verification of a Disadvantaged Background, Verification of Existing Service Obligations, and a Payment History if you’ve used any other NHSC LRP programs in the past
One thing to make absolutely certain of is that all the answers in your application match the details in your supporting documents, as if there are any disparities, NHSC will reject your application outright.
For additional specifics, again, please visit the official program information page on the HRSA’s website, here.
The 2019 Application Deadline
For 2019, applications need to be completed and submitted by February 21st, at 7:30 pm EST.
This deadline will change each year, so don’t assume that just because it’s Feb 21st for 2019, we’ll have the same deadline in 2020.
Every year, the NHSC LRP programs all have different rolling windows for when applications are accepted, and you’ll want to make absolutely certain that you’re operating within those windows because failing to get your application in on time means you have zero chance at receiving the benefit.
Speaking of which, how does the NHSC determine who will be awarded?
Priority Candidates & Selection Factors
Because the NHSC LRP programs are so popular, funding typically runs out each year before everyone who qualifies for benefits can receive them, so the National Health Service Corps evaluates applications individually and chooses who to provide funding to, but how do they determine who deserves it?
First, NHSC offers high-priority to applicants with certain characteristics, including anyone who:
- Has a DATA 2000 waiver (a legal designation that allows you to treat opioid addiction with Schedule III, IV, and V opioid medications approved by the FDA))
- Serves in an opioid-specific treatment program, as this is essentially the entire purpose of the program’s existence
- Has a license or certification to offer substance use disorder interventions, like someone who is certified at the master’s level to offer substance abuse counseling
Next, after NHSC has screened applications for the priorities mentioned above, they will look to a variety of other selection factors, all of which are required to be considered for eligibility, including:
- Ensuring that you honor legal obligations, as in that you haven’t defaulted on any previous student loans, haven’t failed to provide court-ordered child support payments, haven’t written off any debt as uncollectible
- Checking to see if you’ve failed to complete any previous service obligations (from NHSC or otherwise), basically to make sure that you haven’t signed up for a similar program in the past that you did not complete
- Giving top priority to people who don’t have any other existing service obligations, as the goal is to not allow people to double up; if you’ve already got a Federal, State, or even Private service obligation for professional practice, then you won’t be able to use NHSC LRP
- Verifying you haven’t been excluded, suspended or disqualified by any federal agencies, as this 100% invalidates your eligibility for the award
- Evaluating whether or not you truly seem committed to providing primary care service in an HPSA; the whole point of these programs is to improve primary care access for people living in HPSAs, so unless it really seems like your objective aligns with that mission, you won’t be approved
When you’re putting together your application, keep these factors in mind, and speak to them specifically if the opportunity arises, because the more you can make it sound like your goals align with NHSC’s, the more likely you are to be accepted into the program.
After You’ve Applied
After you’ve applied for the program you’re going to receive a receipt of your submission, which you’ll want to save for your records.
Can You Check Your Application Status?
Yes, by going to the Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW) Customer Service Portal, here.
Can You Edit Your Application?
Yes, you can alter the application, add supporting documents, etc., but this all has to be finished by the application deadline.
Can You Withdraw Your Application?
Yes, you can remove your application if you do it before the Secretary of Health & Human Services signs the contract.
How Does NHSC Notify Me if I’m Selected?
When you become an award finalist, NHSC will email you and request that you log into the BHW Customer Service Portal (link here) to confirm several things:
- The fact that you’re still interested in participating in the program
- The validity of your loan and employment details
- That you read and fully understand the NHSC LRP contract, which you will need to sign
- Your direct deposit banking information, which NHSC uses to pay the award
Watch your email closely for this message, because you’ll have to confirm these four points before the confirmation deadline in order to make it into the actual program!
Notifications are supposed to be sent by September 30th, so there’s a pretty big window in there from submitting your application in February to when you may find out you’ve been accepted.
Personally, I’d add some sort of filter to my email that highlights any communications from HRSA or NHSC, just to be certain that I didn’t miss the announcement email!
How Does the Program Work if I’m Accepted?
If you are chosen for an award and you complete all the confirmation processes listed above, then you’ll officially be part of the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP the minute that the Secretary of HHS signs your completed paperwork.
Can I Terminate My Contract Later?
If you choose to leave the program at a later date, you will be able to do so, but only by requesting that you are removed from it.
To get removed, you’ll have to submit a written termination request to the Secretary of the HHS asking them to authorize your removal from the program, and you’ll have to agree to repay any funds that you received under the contract before getting removed from the program.
The chief point to consider here is that you should NOT enroll in this program if you do not feel that you will be able to finish the service obligation.
How Does This Program Stack up Compared to Other Medical Forgiveness Benefits?
I think NHSC SUD Workforce LRP is an excellent opportunity, and perhaps one of the best Student Loan Forgiveness Programs for Medical Personnel.
Almost all of these programs require working in an HPSA (all the programs from HRSA/NHSC do anyway), so that part of the requirement is fairly standardized across all benefits packages.
Where things are different is in the time requirements, and in the award amounts.
NHSC’s Traditional LRP vs. the SUD Workforce LRP
Here’s how this program compares to the traditional NHSC LRP:
But NHSC’s LRP isn’t the only other repayment program available to Medical Personnel, so make sure to take a look at all the options on offer before determining which program will work best for you.
My favorite programs offering loan forgiveness to Nurses, Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacists, and other Medical Personnel include:
- The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program
- Perkins Forgiveness For Nurses & Licensed Medical Technicians
- The NHSC NURSE Corps Scholarship Program
- The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
- The NHSC Loan Repayment Program
- The Non-Profit Employee Student Loan Forgiveness Program
- The Federal, State, or Local Government Employee Student Loan Forgiveness Program
- The Military Student Loan Forgiveness Program
- State-Funded Nursing Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Privately-Funded Nursing Loan Forgiveness Programs
Honestly, if you work in the Medical Field, you’re almost guaranteed to qualify for one of the programs listed above, but the key thing to keep in mind is that you may need to be slightly flexible about where you choose to work.
The advantage to qualifying for one of these benefits programs is that while it may require moving to a new area, or getting a new job, all of them offer significant financial assistance with student loans.
Where Can I Ask Other Questions About Student Loans?
My website was built for people who want to Get Rid of Student Debt Without Paying for It, and I’ve developed over 100 different Guides to different parts of the student loan process.
To make sure that you’re handling your loans as efficiently as possible, paying as little as possible, please check out some of the other Guides I’ve developed, including Guides for people with both Federal and Private debt.
To get Help with Federal Student Loans, please look at my Guides on:
- Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Federal Student Loan Bankruptcies
- Federal Student Loan Consolidations
- Federal Student Loan Delinquencies & Defaults
- Federal Student Loan Rehabilitation
- Federal Student Loan Wage Garnishments
- Federal Student Loan Deferments
- Federal Student Loan Forbearances
- Federal Student Loan Repayment Plans
And for Help with Private Student Loans, take a look at my Guides on:
- Private Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Private Student Loan Consolidations
- Private Student Loan Bankruptcies
- Private Student Loan Default Help
Finally, if you still have any other questions about student loans or the student loan repayment process, please do feel free to post them in the Comments section below.
I review Comments regularly, and will do my best to get you a reply within 24 hours of posting!
NOTE: Please do not attempt to contact me via email or Facebook, as I will ONLY respond to Comments posted here on FSLD.
The material for this post comes directly from the HRSA and NHSC website, including a variety of pages specific to the SUD WOrkforce LRP Program, as well as some other pages about general NHSC objectives.
For details, see:
- The Official NHSC Page for the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program – https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loan-repayment/nhsc-sud-workforce-loan-repayment-program.html
- The NHSC SUD Workforce Application Page – https://bhwnextgen.hrsa.gov/sso/login?service=https%3A%2F%2Fprogramportal.hrsa.gov%2Flogin%2Fsso&theme=nhsclrp
- The SUD Workforce LRP Program Guideline Doc – https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/NHSC/loan-repayment/sud-lrp-application-guidance.pdf
- The HRSA’s Page on Health Professional Shortage Areas – https://bhw.hrsa.gov/shortage-designation/hpsas
- The NHSC’s LRP Selection Factors – https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loan-repayment/selection-factors.html
- The NHSC’s LRP Funding Priorities – https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/loan-repayment/funding-priorities.html
- The BHW’s Customer Service Portal – https://programportal.hrsa.gov/extranet/landing.seam
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