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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHealth insurers Cigna, Humana waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus treatment Puerto Rico needs more federal help to combat COVID-19 Fauci says April 30 extension is 'a wise and prudent decision' 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 DeVosStudents with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package White House slams pastor leading Cabinet Bible studies for linking homosexuality, coronavirus Nation's largest union, NEA, endorses Biden for president 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."

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SandersCoronavirus makes the campaign season treacherous for Joe Biden Biden could be picking the next president: VP choice more important than ever Democrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging 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 McConnellMnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Louisiana Republican: People upset at 'spending porn on pet projects' in latest stimulus bill Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner 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.’”