Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal student loan debt owed by tens of thousands of disabled military veterans will be erased under a directive President Donald Trump signed Wednesday.
Trump ordered the Education Department to "eliminate every penny of federal student loan debt" owed by American veterans who are completely and permanently disabled.
Trump said they won't have to pay federal income tax on the forgiven debt and called on states to waive their taxes on the loans, too.
America, he said, owes its heroes "a supreme debt of gratitude."
Trump's announcement at the AMVETS national convention in Louisville elicited a loud round of applause from the crowd of more than 2,500 veterans. He signed the directive after addressing the gathering.
Only about half of the roughly 50,000 disabled veterans who qualify to have their federal student loan debt forgiven have received the benefit, and the administration blames a "burdensome" application process.
The document directs the government to develop an expedited process so veterans can have the debt discharged "with minimal burdens."
The action will wipe out an average of $30,000 in debt owed by more than 25,000 eligible veterans, Trump said, calling them "incredible people" who have made "the ultimate sacrifice, in many ways, for our nation."
"It's gone forever," Trump said.
Trump also used his appearance to highlight steps the administration has taken to bolster the military, including increased spending and new equipment. He also discussed the administration's commitment to veterans, including helping them access health care, reducing opioid addiction and minimizing suicide among those no longer in uniform.
Trump said the administration is "determined to do everything in our power" to end suicide among veterans. About 20 veterans end their lives every day.