Joining Forces Blog

  • Veterans: Take Advantage of Student Loan Forgiveness, But Don’t Let It Damage Your Credit

    Cross-posted from the CFPB blog. You can read the original here.

    For some veterans, their time in uniform caused a severe service-connected disability. This dramatically impacts their life after transition out of the military.

    For 100-percent service-disabled veterans who have student debt, the Department of Education offers a valuable benefit to help them avoid financial distress – the chance to have their loans discharged (forgiven). Under federal law, veterans can seek federal student loan forgiveness if they receive a 100 percent disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Private student lenders are not required to offer this benefit, but some do on a case-by-case basis, so be sure to ask.

    We encourage all consumers to check their credit report regularly, but we want to especially encourage veterans who use this benefit to be sure that their student loan servicer (the company that collects payments) is providing correct information about their loan discharge to credit bureaus (the companies that compile and sell credit reports).

    We continue to hear from veterans and servicemembers about the unique servicing obstacles they face as they seek to pay off student loan debt. We are concerned that, in some circumstances, when veterans are able to discharge their student loans due to their disability, they may experience damage to their credit report if their student loan servicer provides incorrect information to the credit bureaus. These mistakes, if uncorrected, can result in a negative entry on their credit report that makes it harder and more expensive for these disabled veterans to get credit, buy a car or take out a mortgage.

    For example, one service-disabled veteran submitted a complaint to us describing how his credit score fell by 150 points as a result of this type of error. His score went from a nearly perfect “super prime” credit score to a much lower score simply because he received loan forgiveness.


    I can’t get anyone to listen to me! I am a 100 percent disabled Veteran who has had his credit score ruined by a broken credit scoring system. I had my student loans…discharged…in August 2013…I went from 800 to 650 in less than 2 months. I am fighting to survive because a company from my own country is killing me.


    Consumers are harmed when companies furnish inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies. An error in a credit report could make a big difference in whether someone receives a loan, qualifies for a low interest rate, or even gets offered a job. These credit-reporting problems, if uncorrected, can hurt veterans in this situation for decades.

    For example, here’s what could happen if a veteran tried to buy a home after a credit reporting error caused similar damage to her credit profile and score and this damage went uncorrected. If she used a VA home loan to buy a $216,000 home, she could pay more than $45,000 in additional interest charges over the life of her mortgage (depending on the length and terms of the mortgage), since this error would cause her to qualify for a much more expensive loan.

    Here are two important reminders for service-disabled veterans who have discharged their federal student loans:

    1. Check your credit report.

    If you received loan forgiveness due to your service-connected disability, your credit report should not state that you still owe the debt. Other borrowers who receive a disability discharge are monitored for three years by the Department of Education. But if you received a discharge based on VA documentation, you don’t have to worry about this step and your credit report should show that you no longer owe the loan, not that it was “assigned to government” for monitoring. And remember, you can check your credit report for free.

    If you have discharged older federal loans made by banks, pay even closer attention.

    Most federal loans taken out before 2010 – loans generally made by banks and other private entities but guaranteed by the federal government – require your lender to update the information on your credit report after your loan has been discharged. Even though no new loans are issued under this program, there are still millions of borrowers repaying this type of loan. Veterans who have discharged these loans should be sure to check their credit report regularly, since the rules regarding disability discharge changed in 2013.

    2. If something doesn’t seem right, contact the credit reporting company and dispute the error.

    Understanding how discharged loans show up on your credit report can be complicated. If you file a dispute and it still doesn’t get corrected, submit a complaint with us and we’ll work to get you a response from the company. You can call us at (855) 411-2372 or submit a complaint online.

    Last year, we put companies on notice that they must investigate disputed information in a credit report, and that we will take appropriate action, as needed. We will also continue to closely monitor complaints from veterans and other disabled student loan borrowers to make sure student loan servicers are furnishing correct information to the credit bureaus about disability discharges. All financial services providers that serve veterans should redouble their efforts to ensure that veterans are not penalized for receiving the benefits they earned and deserve for their sacrifices.

    Holly Petraeus is Assistant Director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs and Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman.

  • 2014 Warrior Care Month: Do You Have What It Takes?

    You never know when you are going to make a positive impact on someone's life and provide inspiration. Do you have what it takes to inspire others?

    Last spring, I was in a restaurant with my brother on one of my first outings since leaving the hospital after multiple strokes. Wearing Air Force gear, I obviously stood out as I walked to my table. A very observant retired non-commissioned officer approached me to ask about my situation. He was personable, caring, and someone I instantly trusted. It turns out he was the Air Force Wounded Warrior track and field coach, and he was in town for the 2013 Wounded Warrior Games. He talked to me about other Airmen in similar medical circumstances on his team. His words inspired me.

    Because of this encounter, I am now on the Air Force Wounded Warrior team with 20 other athletes who competed in the inaugural Invictus Games in London and the 2014 Warrior Games here in Colorado Springs. This encounter provided me an opportunity I didn't know existed, and spurred me into action, changing my rehabilitation goals and my life in the process.

    How easy would it have been for him to look past me in the restaurant and not have engaged me? But also, how easy was it for him to come over and introduce himself? With each opportunity we have to interact with each other, we might be opening doors and motivating someone to action, changing their lives. How many opportunities do we have each day to make an impact like this coach did for me? It really can be as simple as saying "hi."

    During the final Warrior Games training camp at the Air Force Academy this past August, I witnessed countless examples of athletes inspiring one another. On day two of the camp, I set out on a 30-kilometer ride in a recumbent bike up and down Stadium Boulevard. Little did I know, the coach planned for us to finish the 2.5-hour ride with a tough hill climb from the stadium to the Preparatory School, a 7 percent grade on a 1.5-mile stretch of road.

    After holding off leg cramps for most of the ride, my leg gave out and completely locked up halfway up the hill, stalling traffic on the way to the commissary. I had no other option but to wait for the rescue truck, and was the only cyclist not to complete the course. The hill won that day, and I certainly needed inspiration on day three when we tackled the same course.

    My inspiration came from a young Airman, using a recumbent hand cycle because of the loss of the use of his legs. I got to know him during the week and was drawn in by his positive personality. As I struggled to the halfway point up the hill, I heard a familiar voice from behind, urging me on.

    "Let's go, Dan! Come on, Dan! Push it, Dan! Can you taste the lunch waiting at the top, Dan?"-- all from someone pulling himself up the very same hill. He stayed on my back wheel during the last mile, not willing to pass me and making sure I made it up to the top.

    My goal had been to make it just a bit further than the previous day, but with powerful encouragement from a fellow Airman, I accomplished a lot more than I expected.

    Do you have what it takes to inspire? Of course you do. Everyone has a specialty, skill, talent, or attitude that can inspire others. It doesn't take much, and inspiration certainly doesn't have to be a locker room speech. Mostly, it can be simple words, kind gestures, or mutual support. We can all be leaders who inspire by creating opportunities for others, helping open doors we didn't know existed, or reaching goals we didn't think possible.

    Each of us has the capacity to inspire and be inspired, so be ready!

  • 2014 Warrior Care Month: A SOCOM Soldier’s Story

    I've learned what it means to overcome adversity. It was November 29, 2012 when I lost my left leg and suffered severe damage to my right leg due to an IED while serving in Afghanistan. I was told I'd never see again, that I'd never use my right foot again, and that running would be a hobby of the past. With that being said, I was out to prove those skeptics wrong.

    I was determined to learn to walk again. I refused to think that I would be bringing my kids to school in a wheelchair instead of walking them down the hall holding their hands. The thought of not being able to run after a baseball my child had hit never crossed my mind. I knew I had to learn to run again.

    There were frustrations along my recovery. Just as I learned to walk, another surgery was required. Just as I completed my first mile, another revision was necessary, and I would spend weeks recovering. All of these were small obstacles in the road to recovery, but obstacles that could not keep me from reaching my goals.

  • 2014 Warrior Care Month: A Navy Wounded Warrior’s Perspective

    Growing up with three brothers, life has always been competitive. So in 2007, 10 days after graduating high school, it was only natural for me to follow in my older brothers’ footsteps and join the Navy to serve as a corpsman. In 2011, I deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

    On March 26, while running to render care to a Marine who had been injured by an improvised explosive device (IED), I also stepped on an IED, which severely injured my left leg. I was sent to Balboa Hospital with the expectation that I would have my left leg amputated.

    There, I met Lt. Valdez, my Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor representative, who advised me to delay my amputation to see what a non-medicated life would be like with an injured leg. Lt. Valdez’s advice was some of the best I have received in my life. By taking time to weigh my options, I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to amputate.

    Lt. Valdez also connected me to adaptive sports, which led to some great experiences competing on behalf of Team Navy – from London to Colorado Springs. It has helped me find the same camaraderie I have known since childhood.

    At the starting blocks at track and field races, the wounded warriors good-naturedly tease one another. “Break a leg!” they say, when, of course, we are all missing one. But even though we’ve been hurt, we won’t let that stop us.

  • 2014 Warrior Care Month

    Caring for our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured service members; their families; and their military caregivers will never lose importance, and remains a national priority – particularly during the month of November.

    Warrior Care Month, established in 2008, is an annual observance that recognizes the strength – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – and resilience of our wounded, ill, and injured service members. They demonstrate this strength and resilience every day, and more than 300 wounded, ill, and injured service members were able to showcase the results of their will to overcome during this year’s Invictus Games in London and Warrior Games in Colorado Springs.

  • Dr. Jill Biden on Joining Forces: 'America Has Stepped Up' for Veterans

    Dr. Jill Biden sat down with Lylah Alphonse of U.S. News & World Report to talk about our Joining Forces initiative and what businesses and communities can do to support those who have courageously served our nation. This interview originally appeared in U.S. News & World Report. You can find the original post here


    Though the unemployment rate in the U.S. continues to fall, the country is still coping with a skills gap, especially in certain science- and technology-intensive fields like IT and health care. Veterans could fill the gap -- if only employers were more aware of the skills these men and women gained while in military service.

    "Not every hiring manager is going to know that a chief petty officer has been responsible for the lives of dozens of their peers," First Lady Michelle Obama said during the Women Veterans Career Development Forum in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday. "Not every HR director understands that a gunner’s mate is probably trained to do some of the most complex, high-tech analysis that you'll find anywhere."

    To help bridge that gap, and to encourage citizens to support veterans and military families, the First Lady and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched Joining Forces in 2011.