Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE on Wednesday signed a memorandum directing the Department of Education to eliminate all federal student loan debt owed by tens of thousands of severely disabled veterans.

Trump signed the directive following a speech to AMVETS at the organization's 75th annual convention in Kentucky. The announcement drew applause from those in attendance, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosDeVos forgives 1,500 student loans amid federal lawsuit Warren campaign launches 'a calculator for the billionaires' after Gates criticism Education Department finalizes new regulations to relax college-accreditation requirements MORE.

"Nobody can complain about that, right?" Trump said. "The debt of these disabled veterans will be entirely erased. It will be gone. They can sleep well tonight."

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Trump said the memo will apply to more than 25,000 veterans who are "completely and permanently" disabled. Federal taxes will not be applied to the forgiven debt, he added.

"Veterans ... who have made such enormous sacrifices for our country should not be asked to pay any more," he said.

The president has made his support of the armed forces and veterans a calling card of his campaign speeches. He frequently boasts about the hundreds of billions of dollars in funding Congress has allocated in recent years to the military, and regularly cites initiatives to improve the Veterans Affairs Department.

Trump's Department of Education has faced criticism, however, for rolling back Obama-era protections for student borrowers.

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Bernie Sanders tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan If we want to save earth, we need to change how we eat MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Elizabeth Warren tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan Warren 'fully committed' to 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Mass.) are among the prominent progressives who have pressed for legislation wiping out large swaths of student debt nationwide, arguing it would foster opportunity and combat income inequality.

Trump at one point told attendees that he would refrain from uttering his reelection slogan because the AMVETS appearance was funded by taxpayers and was "not a campaign speech." But he promptly said he hoped to "keep America great" and touched on a few of topics that regularly come up at his rallies with supporters.

Though he remained mostly on script, Trump recounted withdrawing from the "horrible" Iran nuclear deal, touted the economic boost that comes with manufacturing new military equipment and criticized the "fake news" as he pointed at the press gathered in the auditorium.

The president acknowledged a host of attendees, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (R-Ky.) and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R).

Trump praised McConnell as "somebody very special" and pledged to campaign for the GOP leader when he's up for reelection next year. The president was set to attend a fundraiser for Bevin later Wednesday in Louisville.

Earlier in the speech, Trump also recognized Woody Williams, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.

"I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody," Trump quipped. "I say, 'can I give it to myself anyway?' They say, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”