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Courtney Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Allow Active-Duty Servicemembers to Count Full Service Period Towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness

May 25, 2021
Press Release

NORWICH, CT—Today, Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD-AL) introduced the Recognizing Military Service in PSLF Act, a new bipartisan bill that would finally enable American service members to count the full length of their service towards their student loan forgiveness. Although they are currently eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), existing rules prevent many active duty servicemembers who have deployed far away from their families from applying their full period of service towards PSLF—meaning that they are made to complete a longer period of service before qualifying for student loan forgiveness. The Recognizing Military Service in PSLF Act would ensure that American servicemembers have their full service periods appropriately counted towards their loan forgiveness.

Courtney was joined by Rep. Johnson as an original co-sponsor upon introducing the bill today. The Senate companion to the Recognizing Military Service in PSLF Act is sponsored by Senators Maggie Hasson (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and co-sponsored by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jack Reed (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The legislation has earned the endorsement of veterans service organizations including Veterans Education Success and Student Veterans of America.

“There are no public servants more deserving of our gratitude and support than our servicemembers, especially those deployed around the globe, far away from their families,” said Congressman Courtney. “The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was designed to encourage and support people who dedicate their careers to serving our communities and our country, and our servicemembers and National Guard members shouldn’t be barred from taking full advantage of its benefits while they’ve been deployed on active-duty. Rep. Johnson and I have teamed up before to move bipartisan bills across the finish line for the folks who wear our nation’s uniform, and I’m glad to join him once again to advance this effort. Our troops and their families deserve the full benefit of student loan forgiveness that they’ve earned while serving overseas, and this bill will help them get it.”

“Servicemembers' time in the military is eligible for public service student loan forgiveness except while they are on active duty deployment. That policy makes no sense. I’m proud to partner with Rep. Courtney to make certain all military service time is counted towards this critical military benefit,” said Congressman Johnson.

Currently, service members are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which means they can enroll in income-driven repayment plans that will result in student loan forgiveness after ten years of qualifying service. Servicemembers also have access to student loan deferment and forbearance periods during military deployments. These loan deferment and forbearance periods are intended to account for the unique financial impacts of deployment on a servicemember’s family, but currently those periods do not count as PSLF qualifying payments—meaning that if a servicemember chooses to put their loans into deferment or forbearance during a deployment, they will need to complete a longer overall period of service before qualifying for student loan forgiveness.

The bipartisan Recognizing Military Service in PSLF Act would count military student loan deferment or forbearance as qualifying payments to PSLF so that servicemembers who deploy have their full time of service appropriately counted towards their loan forgiveness. The bill would extend the new coverage to:

  • Active-duty service members deployed overseas on a combat tour;
  • Active-duty service members deployed away from their families and home station to support a Department of Defense mission;
  • National Guard and Reserve members brought onto active duty orders for more than 30 days to support a federal mission, such as an overseas deployment or U.S. disaster relief;
  • National Guard members brought on to state active duty orders to support a state mission, which includes those members who have been supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Reps. Courtney and Johnson have worked together successfully in and outside of the House Armed Services Committee to support America’s servicemembers and their families. In August 2020, they co-led the introduction of the Impact Aid Coronavirus Relief Act (H.R. 8075), a bill that provided support to public schools that serve high percentages of children from military families and others. Their bipartisan bill was passed by the House in October 2020, and was signed into law by President Trump on December 7, 2020.