Winning Isn't Easy: Long Term Disability ERISA Claims

WIE Season 2: Special Edition Hot Off The Press: Student Loan Update / How It Affects Your Disability with Karen Cody-Hopkins

August 19, 2022 Nancy L. Cavey
Winning Isn't Easy: Long Term Disability ERISA Claims
WIE Season 2: Special Edition Hot Off The Press: Student Loan Update / How It Affects Your Disability with Karen Cody-Hopkins
Show Notes Transcript

Karen Cody-Hopkins Colorado Student Loan Lawyer talks about Disability Discharge and Your Student Loans on this weeks episode of Winning Isn't Easy with Nationwide ERISA Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey!


ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Hey, it's national Arissa and long term disability attorney Nancy Cay . And I wanna welcome you to this week's episode of winning isn't easy. My special guest is Karen Cody Hopkins. Karen is a dear friend of mine, and I think that she is the preeminent student loan or attorney in the United States. I've asked her to talk with us today about student loans and disability. Welcome Karen.

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Thank you my very much Nancy. It's wonderful to be with you.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

I wanna start out by talking about what's happening in the world of student loans in 2022. Can you fill us in?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Sure. And there is a great deal going on. We have a great deal with the department of education with under the new administration. Um, they're announcing quite a bit of student loan forgiveness. There are two major , um, student loan forgiveness packages that they've announced recently for almost every student who went to Corinthian colleges for a certain wide range of dates. They're going to totally forgive the student loans because under the borrower defense to repayment, they feel that the schools did not provide proper education. Then just this week, they announced that they're doing the same student loan forgiveness for federal loans, for people who went to ITT technical Institute. So those are two school specific , uh, pro forgiveness programs , um, that they'll be they've announced, and people will be hearing about that directly from the department of education over the next couple of months, we're talking about a couple of hundred thousand people who will get complete forgiveness. So the process will take a while , but it's gonna be relief that people have earned , um, because of the problems with the schools, then there are a number of other programs. Um, there are issues with the borrower , the , uh, the income driven repayment plan. They did an audit and discovered the servicers had not been properly administering the plan. So they're gonna give people some special credit under those that program. They're also under public service loan forgiveness, which is an important program that has not been well handled over the years. They have something called the limited waiver. So they're offering people additional chances to get credit for forgiveness in that program. There's just a , a whole other , uh, range of issues going on because of a large class action called sweet versus card. And they're going to settle , um, 153 for profit universities are going to , uh, are going have their students' loans forgiven under the borrower defense to repayment program. Some of those people have been waiting up to six years to find an answer, and now they'll get a blanket answer and get forgiveness. So there's a great deal going on with the department of education in the world of private student loans. There's only really one major thing that I'm currently , uh, aware of, and that is Navient. Uh , one of the private student lenders. They also do federal work, but they do meet a lot of private. They announced with 39 , a state attorney generals that there's going to be that there's been a list forgiveness , uh, for a number of people for loans, whether they're private or federal, but it's very specific and detailed, but there's quite a bit , uh, keeping up, keeps quite a bit of it . But the main thing I think for today's topic is there's been a change in the federal total and permanent disability program.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Right . Great. Well, let's take a short break and we'll be back to talk about that important topic because many of my clients who are getting social security disability, who are applying for their short or long term disability benefits have student loans and they always ask me, how , what can I do? What should I do? How do I deal with my loans? And this is a perfect topic topic. So let's take a break and we'll be back in a second.

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ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Welcome back to winning IST easy and my special guest, Karen Cody Hopkins. Karen, let's talk about the wonderful world of , uh, discharges as a result of disability. Can you fill us in as to what's going on , um, what their requirements are, how to apply, how to get help with the application, how long it takes, what happens if it's denied? Um, and any other thing, anything else you think we need to know about , uh, forgiveness of student loans as a result of disability?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Sure. Nancy, the department of education for federal student loans, all federal student loans, but only federal student loans has a rather comprehensive program that has some very specific issues you have to know about. There are three ways to get a total and permanent disability discharge of your federal student loans. First for veterans, if you're a veteran and you have a hundred percent disability rating from the veteran's administration, normally the veteran's administration is supposed to notify the department of education. That if you're a hundred percent disability rating, your student loans, your federal student loans should be dis discharged. And they have automated that process now, which it didn't used to be. Right? So that normally the veteran should get notified that their student loans are eligible for a discharge and it should happen relatively simply without the veteran having to do very much. Now that works well. Uh , but every once in a while, the two departments don't talk to each other and somebody gets missed. So there is an application that you can fill out to notify the department of education that you are a veteran and you qualify. There's also a process for the people that you are familiar with. Nancy, the people who are getting social security disability. Now there's supposed to be a more automated process there. They're working on it. The department of education and the social security administration are talking and exchanging information, but it's not everybody on social security disability. Who's eligible for the department of education, disability, discharge for the loans. The person has to have a medical rating that there's their normal social security disability, medical review will only happen every five years or more, or that the condition is one that will result in death or one that's going to keep. And , and so the problem is, is that there only partway through automating the process of notification. So there is an application and sometimes you have to go and , uh, take your department of education application, go to the social security disability administration and get something called a B P Q Y report. Nancy, can you maybe mention that a little bit more?

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Sure. Um, when you apply for disability benefits and ultimately you're awarded the social security administration or a judge we'll review the medical records and determine when they anticipate there might be medical improvement and it could be one year, two years, three years, five years, seven years. In my view, it's a bit subjective , uh, in terms of how they determine whether there's going to be improvement. So, as I understand what you're saying is if social security administration has determined that there will be , uh, no medical improvement for at least five years, that's sort of gonna be an automatic quote charge . But if they've determined that you may have improvement in years, one to five, you still have to submit an application. Uh , and you can obviously talk about the documentation that needs to be part of that. And the fact that they're gonna re-certify your disability in the course of that one to five years, is that correct?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

It , it is to the extent that if your rating is five years or more, the department of education will give you a total permanent disability discharge based on your social security rating. However, if you have like say a three year disability review under social security, you can't use the social security determination to give you the to department of education. You have to go to , you have to go to method three. Um, so yes, you can have the social security disability. It does not automatically give you totally permanent disability. So you have to go to the third way, which is the physician's certification. Unlike the documentation that you have to go through for social security disability, the department of education has a simple, basically two page form . One page, you sign up, you've pellet , you fill out your contact information. You state that you're not a veteran. You're not applying as a veteran and you're not applying under your social security rating, whether you have one or not, but you are going to have your doctor. And it has to be an MD or a do . They're proposing to allow people like nurse practitioners and others to sign these forms in a couple of years, but that hasn't been approved. So you have to have your doctor or your, your ND or do fill out a one page form and no records , no medical records are , are, are required. So the funniest problem we have is that the doctors who are used to filling out more complicated disability forms for either private disability or social security are a little sort of taken aback by the fact that the department of education form, which they don't see very often is only one simple page. But what they have to say as your doctor is that you either have one of three things. You either have to have a condition that's going to result in death. You have to, or you have to have a condition , um, that is going to last , um, more than 60 months now, they don't have to say when the started and they don't have to exactly give a date of disability. They just have to say that they believe that will , it will impact your working ability , uh, for at least 60 months. And then they have to say that you can't do gainful employment. And they there's a , a about a half a page form where they have to give some information about your diagnosis and its impact on your ability to work. But it's a kind of a strange situation because the doctor is saying you're dis disabled enough to not do gainful employment. But the , the secret is that does not mean you can't work at all. Many people, especially those who ever applied before will , will re know that the department of education used to kind of do a , a , a wage testing. They used to check for three years to see if you made more than the poverty level, essentially about $17,000. Well , they've under C they've announced they've dropped the income monitoring part of this , uh, analysis, and they do not intend to bring it back. So really all you have to do is communicate with your doctor about the form and about the fact that you can still get social security, disability benefits. Uh , you can get other kinds of benefits. Um, and now they're not doing any income checking. So it's not that you can't work at all. It's just that under the medical definition is defined , uh, in the paperwork, you just can't do substantial gainful employment. So we find that people need that assistance to understand that and be able to explain that to their doctor.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Go ahead. So Karen, most of my clients will have their doctors complete with residual functional capacity form in the context of their social security case or attending physician statement forms in the context of their long-term disorder case. But let's say the doctor doesn't want to fill out this form. Can, can a person go to another doctor on a one time visit and have that doctor fill out the form? Or does the doctor who fill out who fills out the form and signs off on it have to be a treating physician?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

No, they don't have to be a treating physician. They can be any doctor who evaluates that they, the doctor in good faith has seen you and can fill out the form. So this is why very often you will find that people who have multiple conditions or they have a PCP and a specialist. I basically say to them, I explain the form. I have a special letter that I send to explain the form to the doctors, right? And I have the person take the form and my letter into their doctor. And I , I personalize it for the doctor after I get the name. Sometimes I give them two or three letters for different doctors because the, the , the doctors just aren't as familiar with the process. And basically very often we find that one Dr. May not feel comfortable, but another will. So it really comes down to the fact that you have to communicate with the doctor, what the doctor's signing, what the doctor's saying about your condition and have one that understands your condition well enough to feel comfortable. The other thing is that sometimes you're in an evolving medical situation, and I find that people may talk to the doctor. The doctor's a little reluctant, maybe not, but as things progress over the next few months, or maybe even the next few year , the doctor will come become comfortable or a different doctor in , in comes to treat you. So it, it's not a perfect process. Uh , it's very doctor dependent and doctor relationship dependent. But I have virtually, I have had very few people have their, have their doctors totally refuse where they can't find any doctor that will not sign this.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

So, Karen, what happens if , uh, this , uh, application for a discharge is approved and then what happens if it isn't

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Approved? Okay. So the , once the person fills out their page and has the doctor's page, it's submitted to a company called Millnet , which has a contract with the department of education to process these forms. And the main thing is if the patient and the doctor have filled out all the blanks on the form, which is often the biggest problem is getting the doctors to fill out every single box. But if they fill out all the boxes and they submit it , um, then usually you get an answer with it from Millnet within 60 days. Wow. Which , which is, I , I understand in the world of disability is a little quick. Um, and the thing that's interesting is as long as everything is completely filled out, there have been a few CA cases, maybe one a year out of the many that I do, where they might come back for a doctor for some additional records. But I have in , in doing a hundred, over a hundred cases, I've only seen that happen once. The other thing is that a lot of people don't focus on the fact that they can get a total permanent disability discharge of all their federal student loans. If they have a mental health problem, it's not just physical disability. The doctors can also sign under mental health issues. And that is a big issue. I see people with PSTD or , um, you know, long term depression, other kinds of conditions. So a lot of it, my job is to education , educate the, my client, the patient, and then work with them to help educate the doctor. But then you submit the form. Usually within 60 days, you get a letter from Nelnet that says, yes, you've been approved. Your loans are discharged, but there is one funny caveat, Nancy,

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

What's that

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Because the department of education can't change its rules on a dime. They still have that three year monitoring set set of rules in the rules, even though they're not following it. So you get the letter that says your loans are discharged, but then on your anniversary date for the first year, the second year, and the third year, you get a letter that says, hi, it's your anniversary date for your disability discharge. And we would normally be checking your income, but we're not. So now you get to the note , go to the next year. And at the end of three years, right after your anniversary, you get a letter that says you're done for good. We're not doing anything anymore. Now they have announced they're gonna get rid of this three year monitoring piece. And so I believe that before the end of the three years now, they will, they will do away with that. And you'll get a rather permanent, immediate disability discharge, but course that the department of education does not move in , turn on a dime, and it takes a while for them to change their records.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

So Karen what's , what are the tax consequences of a , uh, discharge

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Wonderful news on that front? So , um, the disability discharge , um, says that some of your loans are forgiven sometimes in certain things. There are times when forgiven debt is considered income, but for the case of disability discharge, it's not, there are no tax consequences, nothing. You have to do nothing you have to report.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Great. Well, let me ask you a question. Um, I represent folks who have individual disability policies that are private disability policies, and many times these policies don't require a person to apply for social security, disability benefits, like an ERISA government policy. So sometimes my clients don't want to apply for some reason for their social security disability benefits. How does a student loan discharge work if at all in the situation where someone has not applied for social security disability benefits?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, even though they're trying to increase their cooperation, the department of education does not normally, as far as I'm aware of report anything to social security disability. So you , you , you don't have their sup social security disability is supposed to notify the department of education that there are people with five year or more reviews, but there's no other reporting that I'm aware of.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

So I , if I have a private individual disability policy and I don't wanna apply for social security, am I still eligible for a discharge? And how would I go about proving it?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Yes. You just, you would use the doctor's certification process. We discussed a few minutes ago. You don't have to do anything else. The other thing that happens is as you know, when, so people who are , um, getting social security disability, when they turn their normal retirement age, then they go from social security disability to normal , uh, social security. And in that case , um, they , you have to use the doctor's certification method. So even if you've been on social security disability, if you're past the age of retire , normal retirement, then you just can go ahead and, and , uh, use the doctor's certification method. Cool. There's been some discussion, but there isn't many action on what if you use , what if you've been on social security disability for many years, you've crossed over to the normal retirement age. Can you use the social security disability to get the department of education? No . You just have to go through the doctor's certification method.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Good. Well, that's fantastic. Let's take a quick break and we'll be back to talk more about what we anticipate with the Biden administration and student loans. Sure.

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ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Welcome back to winning. Isn't easy. Karen, this has been fantastic. Um, but I want you to on your , uh, your hat and tell us what you think the Biden administration has in store for us with the student loans.

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, there's a pretty major hint that the COVID forbearance, which means zero payments are due and zero interest is accruing. That's covered about 85% of the federal student loans is going to get extended because they've told their servicers do not send out any bills. Starting September 1st, the COVID forbearance, which has been extended, a number of times was supposed to expire August 31st. Um, we have not heard of formal announcement from , uh, president Biden's offices, but they've told their services. Don't send anybody a bill. That's a pretty good hint. <laugh> um, but we don't know how long we're expecting. They're gonna say we're not gonna start, start building people until 2023. That's the major , uh, you know what we're hearing from people in reports. We do know that a lot of student loan advocacy groups met last week with some of the officials, you know, at the white house and the apartment of education. The other thing that we're waiting for , um, seems to be that there's this discussion of whether any student loan blanket forgiveness will be given. The major conclusion everybody reaches is that president Biden may be willing to give $10,000 blanket, federal student loan forgiveness, to , uh, people who earn less than $150,000 per year per person. However, I've heard that one of the delays in announcing that are two strange things, one, there's a lot of demand for 50,000 forgiveness, but we don't think president Biden's going to do that, but apparently there's been a discussion of whether there would be general inflationary impact

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

From

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Student loan forgiveness. And we hear there are a little concerned about, well, you know , in the middle of the inflationary problems we're having right now, is that a good thing? We think they're , they're , they're gonna con conclude that that's not necessarily going to be the , the case. So I think we'll see $10,000 student loan forgiveness announced this fall, hopefully. Um, and then the other thing is that the one of the problems logistically is there a 45 million student loan borrow federal student loan borrowers about nine to 10 million of them use the income driven repayment plans in those plans, the , the department of education learns your income. So it would be able to tell for those nine to 10 million, if they make over 150,000 , but for all of the other people, they , the department of education by itself, doesn't have a way to know. So there's a concern since, since the , the two departments, the IRS and the department of education have some complicated rules about when they can communicate, there's a concern that many people would have to submit some sort of application to get the forgiveness, to prove that they don't earn more. And that's a complexity that I think the department has been trying to figure out how to, how to deal with that logistical problem, which, you know, it sounds like, yes, it would be a great idea to do the student loan forgiveness, but logistically, but there are also some people who are concerned about, about the 10,000, most of my clients, $10,000 is a drop in the bucket because of the way capitalized interest in the programs have developed over four administrations. Lots of people , um, you know, have, have , have very high balances and very high capitalized interests. So there's a, there's a dichotomy between the people who , who have not had loan problems, you know, they've paid off their loans, et cetera . I, I believe student loan forgiveness should be given, not just because it should be be given, but because the programs have had so many problems, mainly because of the servicing companies that people's loans have balloon ballooned, UN excuse me, ballooned unfairly. And it's such a complex system. I Nancy , I , you and I, you know, I've said this before. I personally think it's pretty awful that you have to need a student loan lawyer today, but many people do the , the processes and the rules are so complicated. And so far, we've only talked about federal loans and there's a whole other world of the private loans.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

So can you quickly explain what capitalized interest is and how that has taken a , a very simple loan and made it alone into multiples of what the original face amount of the loan was?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Sure. So when you take out the loans, you oftentimes don't read the fine print or aren't given all the rules. And so you think that you have a loans for say $10,000 at 10%. Well over time , perhaps you have a forbearance, a deferment, you change status. You don't make your payments. Your payment are later besides the regular interest that's accruing on the loan at certain points, the department of education rules say, when you change your status, we are going to take all your interest and make it part of the principle. So if you had a $10,000 loan and a thousand dollars of interest that had built up, they're going to turn that into an $11,000 loan that now still has interest on it. And then when you change your status again, and so many people don't understand that there's these sort of hidden capitalized interest increases on their balances, that they don't understand because they say, but I've been making payments well, yes, you're making payments, but the payments haven't been enough to pay the full interest. And if you're late on your payments, that's more interest. But the , the , the most hidden piece I think is that because of the, the fact that people have had to borrow so much more over the years than they used to for education in the United States, the people don't understand that, that when they call in and they're offered one of the now actually five income based for payment plans, you're your payments. Yes. You get in a payment. That's good. It keeps you in good standing and is affordable, but you're not paying all the interest. So the interest is , is , is just growing. And it's kind of, it's like a , a side piece where your interest is growing. Yes, you're making payments, but you're not making any progress on the loan. And so the idea has been, we're gonna give you an affordable payment. The interest is gonna be building up, but it's gonna get forgiven at the end of the 10 years for public service loan forgiveness, or 20 or 25 years for the income based repay plans. But people don't understand. That means that the $50,000 loan they take out, you know, when they're only making partial payments is gonna balloon over those 20 or 25 years. And, and , and those, those rules are not well explained . So many people show up in my office and say, I took out. So , you know, certain amount, I have made payments as much as I can most of the time, but the lo the loan has ballooned. And I don't know how I'm gonna be able to pay it off. My 50,000 is now 150,000, and I don't understand how I got here.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

I mean, we both agree that student loans should be paid , uh, and that people should be making payments. But as you've explained, it's this , uh, this interest on interest, this compound interest that continues to accrue, that's really, really unfair because people are making payments generally. Uh , those payments can be as much or more than a mortgage sometimes, but yet they're not making any progress on, on the balance. Do you see any proposed legislation that's going to address that? I mean, cuz as , as we both agree , $10,000 forgiveness is not gonna make a dent in, in, in these student loans.

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, I think the basic problem is that the entire system is so complex. You have, you have basically call center employees for about six or seven servicers that do the collecting , uh, and payments from the , for the department of education. And they don't have the time or the, the skill level to take you from your level of understanding through exactly how you've gotten, where you are. And so it , it's a difficult, it's a difficult issue because the complexity of the system is doing it in. Um, people just don't get enough information. And I think there is leg there , there are rule changes. The department of education goes through a very complicated process called negotiated rule making when they wanna change their rules. It takes two to three years to change a rule usually well, and they , and they're trying to get consensus from the , all their stakeholders about what the new rules they have proposed new rules, for example, in the disability, they've proposed getting rid of the income monitoring piece. Um, and they've also, as I said before, and you know, proposed additional people who medical professionals who can sign these documents in other areas in the enclosed school discharges, which are another way to get rid of certain loans or even in the income driven plants , they've made proposals to change the programs, to try to simplify them. Some of the things I have heard of sound very good. Some of them still don't go far enough. And I think we're, it's gonna take the entire Biden administration , um, who knows what will happen after that, but for the entire to improve all the different programs and try to give people enough information. I think the biggest problem is sometimes the department of education forgets its own complexity. And many of the people that I talk to, they don't know whether they have federal or student loans. They don't know who the players are. They don't know the lingo of what what's an FFE L loan versus a direct loan versus a <inaudible> loan . You know, it's it's you , you sh the complexity is just a lot of people are just totally intimidated by the process and the complexity.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

So Carol , we've talked a lot about federal student loans, but we haven't touched on private student loans. Um, tell us about the ability to get a disability discharge in the context of a private loan.

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Unfortunately, that's a very piecemeal patchwork situation. What happens is, and this is why people are often confused is many times over the last 20 years, people have gotten private student loans often at their recommendation of their school or someone in their family to go get a private student loan. And oftentimes banks would give out those loans, right? But the banks would not, would not keep the ownership of those loans. They would sell them off to a group that would collect, say couple hundred thousand loans and administer them through a servicer. And so people oftentimes very often, they can't tell me who the loans are from and the place that these loans there's no central registry, unless the loans are still gonna show up in the , in the seven years on your credit report. Now, many people have older student loans, long past seven years. They don't show up on the credit report and they have, they , they don't know, know who's handling them anymore, but in terms of disability, it's a case by case analysis as to who owns and services belongs, whether there's even a , a process to apply some of the companies, for example, Navient and Sally Mae it's it's cousin. Um, and I believe Wells Fargo and one or two of the other companies have a not well advertised total and permanent disability process, but usually they have a very short, very doctor intensive , um, application, which it's very hard to find out. It's hard to find out if they have a program it's hard to find out if they have a program, where do you get the paperwork? And then if you get the paperwork , um, you have to have, you have to fill out a section and the doctor has to fill out a section and sometimes submit significant , uh, records. Then the , these companies submit those. The , the most common is to have , um, one of the life insurance companies that does other disability review the , the , your , your application gets submitted to this company, which you don't even know the name of you never, you don't know that goes on, but that's where your application goes to. And then they will decide if you're gonna get a total and permanent disability discharge on your private student loan. I very rarely see that granted

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

And you and I have talked about this potential , um, situation in a , even a potential , uh, class action. Can you give us an example of what you've seen in the games that are being played?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, the applications , um, ask for a great deal, more medical, I mean, compared to the department of education, it's much more similar. I believe to doing something like either a private disability or a social security disability application, where really the doctor has to convince, there were the , the examiners that you are medically, physically totally and permanent disabled , um, to a , and the standards are, they're not well defined to you, the patient person who's applying. Uh , but, but they're , they're very strict about being pretty, pretty strongly unable to do much of anything is what I've seen. I've only had a few ever granted. And usually if they're denied, you don't get much information and there doesn't seem to be much of an appeal process, if any. So it's, it's a , and the mental health type of disabilities are more difficult. It seems to me , um, for the , for these places to approve this. But it very often I've found that even sometimes the call centers don't seem to even be aware if when they're collecting on a loan, if that loan even has one of these processes. So it's , um, it's , and , and the other thing is there's a great deal of muddiness because many people, years later don't even have a contract that they originally signed, right ? That contract does govern what, what what's gonna control , um, the issue of whether you can dispute anything or appeal anything

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

In closing. Anything else you wanted to tell us about that , uh, that , uh, our folks need to know?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, I just think there's a lot of information and there are some websites that are important. The, the student aid.gov is the federal student loan main page for student loans, student a.gov . But a lot of people don't understand that they could log into there. You can create an account or log in if you have an account and get a great deal of information about your federal student loans , um, you have to pretty well get a credit report to find out about your private student loans. And there can be some that aren't on your PRI aren't even on your credit report. Um, there's also most of these, the forgiveness programs and settlements that I mentioned in the beginning of this discussion, those have websites and that are available , um, that you , you , you have to pay more attention. You have to be a more active consumer and educate yourself more as a consumer. Um, then people realize, or usually have the, it oftentimes overwhelms them . So the system is just too complex.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Karen, can you explain to us what it is that you do to help people with their student loans and, and , uh, to get a discharge?

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, we do , I do a wide variety of things. I would say that this the most important and the most common is simply to sort out for a person. They show up at my office. They may have one problem, but the major thing I do is educate them. What are your sit ? What are your student loan situations? I start out with what's private, what's federal, and I educate them. And then they oftentimes have a specific problem. They're being sued by somebody. They they've applied for something and they got denied and they'll understand why. Um, and then we usually try to map out a process , how do they stay up to date and what do they do ? Um , how , how do they, you know , how do they stay on track? Not just , but what , what can I do for them over the long term to keep them on a track so that they, you know, do they know when to do their annual paperwork, for example, or they know where to go to find out, you know, what's happening?

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

Well, I've worked with , uh, Karen for many years and I highly recommend her . We have put up on the screen, her contact information , uh, and in closing Karen, I wanna thank you for the time that you spent today with , uh, aid , us, of student loans and discharges. I thank you. And I would urge any , uh, person who has an issue with student loans to reach out to Karen. She has a nationwide practice she's based in the Denver, Colorado area, but she does marvelous work across the country. So thank you , Karen.

Student Loan Attorney Karen Cody-Hopkins:

Well, thank you , Nancy. You know, I feel the same way about your D disability practice.

ERISA Attorney Nancy L. Cavey:

All right . Take care .