The rollout of the executive action came during the American Veterans national convention in Louisville, Kentucky, where Trump was joined onstage by Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, and the deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, James Byrne.
“I am proud to announce that I am taking executive action to ensure that our wounded warriors are not saddled with mountains of student debt,” Trump said. “They have made a sacrifice that’s so great. And they’re such incredible people. And they never complain. They never complain. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt held by our severely wounded warriors. It’s gone forever.”
The savings projected by the Trump administration represents a small fraction of about $1.6 trillion in overall student loan debt in the United States, which has become a point of emphasis among many of the Democrats running for president.
While 50,000 permanently disabled veterans in the country are eligible for relief under a decades-old debt forgiveness program, only half of them have qualified because of cumbersome requirements, according to the White House.
The executive action signed by Trump directs the Education Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to simplify the process to speed up applications. The president said disabled veterans would not have to pay federal income tax on the forgiven debt, and he called on all 50 states to provide the same relief.
“So that’s really big stuff,” Trump said.
Some of the administration’s critics, however, have said that DeVos has hindered the process.
In a letter sent to DeVos in May, the attorneys general for 51 states and territories said that the Education Department was not doing enough to help ease the burden of college debt for disabled veterans and that the Education Department was too hung up on the tax implications of forgiving student loan debt.
“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to assist those who have put their lives on the line to defend us,” the group wrote.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.