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AG Reyes Statement on Presidential Memorandum For Disabled Veteran Student Loan Forgiveness

August 22, 2019

Subsequent to President Donald J. Trump signing the presidential memorandum instituting student loan forgiveness for disabled veterans, Utah Attorney General Reyes released the following statement:

“I am thrilled by President Trump’s announcement instituting automatic student loan forgiveness for total and permanently disabled U.S. Veterans. I can’t think of a more deserving group than those who have served, risked their lives and sacrificed their health to protect our nation.

“In many cases, these veterans were injured so severely that it has  compromised their quality of life and ability to earn enough in order to pay off their debt quickly. Far too many of these wounded heroes were either unaware of the availability of loan forgiveness or didn’t know how to access it. President Trump has thankfully removed those hurdles.

“Earlier this year, I had the honor of co-authoring a letter in which I asked U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to take action toward automatic loan forgiveness. The letter was joined by a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general (50 states and Guam).

“I thank Secretary DeVos for listening to us, for her leadership along with the work by the Department of Veterans Affairs on this issue. President Trump deserves great credit for decisively solving a problem he had inherited and that has only worsened over time.”

In Utah, veterans who have questions or need legal help may contact and may be covered by the Utah@EASE program, offering pro bono legal services under the Utah AG office.

Utah AG Reyes’ Call for Forgiveness of Disabled Veterans Student Loans is Granted

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 21, 2019

UTAH AG REYES’ CALL FOR AUTOMATIC DISCHARGE OF STUDENT LOANS FOR PERMANENTLY DISABLED VETERANS IS GRANTED
President Signs Executive Action at Kentucky AMVETS National Convention

SALT LAKE CITY—In direct response to Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes’ call to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled because of their military service, President Donald J. Trump today signed an order to do so.  
 
AG Reyes led a bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General (50 states and Guam) alongside New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and sent a letter to the Department of Education Secretary just prior to Memorial Day this year. 
 
Last year DOE identified more than 42,000 veterans nationwide as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability, the Attorneys General note in their letter to Secretary DeVos. Fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, however, and more than 25,000 had student loans in default.
 
The following is a statement from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes:
 
“I am extremely pleased at today’s [executive] action to automatically forgive student loans for permanently disabled U.S. Veterans. I can’t think of a more deserving group of individuals than American heroes who have served, risked their lives and sacrificed their health to protect our nation.
 
“It is our obligation to do all we can to allow these veterans to have every opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families now that they are home and have completed their military service. In many cases, these veterans were injured so severely that they’ve greatly compromised their quality of life and ability to earn enough in order to pay off their debt quickly.
 
“I would like to thank New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General for their unanimous support as we presented this request to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
 
“It’s gratifying that the leaders of our nation agree with us that forgiving student loans for disabled veterans is the least we can do to honor their service and sacrifice.”
 

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NOTES:

  1. Read a copy of the attorneys general letter to Secretary DeVos here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NAAG-Letter-to-Sec.-DeVos.pdf.
  2. Read a copy of the memorandum here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-discharging-federal-student-loan-debt-totally-permanently-disabled-veterans/

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, D-Day remains in the hearts of Americans

June 6, 2019

Today on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we remember and honor the valiant men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our lives and liberties.

Americans should always remember the anniversary of D-Day. It was a show of the allegiance between America, Britain, Canada, and France with a huge force of more than 150,000 soldiers. D-Day acted as a turning point in World War II and allowed the Allies to finally defeat Germany. 

Many Americans have traveled to France to visit Omaha Beach – the very shores where those troops landed, and where many lost their lives. Now it resides as a place of reflection and remembrance.

AG Reyes Calls for Forgiveness of Disabled Veterans School Loans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2019

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL CALLS FOR AUTOMATIC DISCHARGE OF STUDENT LOANS FOR PERMANENTLY DISABLED VETERANS
Sean D. Reyes Leads a Nationwide Petition to the Education Secretary

SALT LAKE CITYAs the nation prepares to honor fallen troops on Memorial Day, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is leading a bipartisan coalition of 51 Attorneys General (50 states and Guam) to urge the Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connection with their military service.

This effort, led by Attorney General Reyes and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, calls on DOE to develop a process to automatically discharge the `student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible for such relief. While the automatic discharge process is in development, the letter proposes DOE should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans. 

“Forgiving their school loans is the least we can do to recognize their service and sacrifice,” Attorney General Reyes said. “These veterans have suffered permanent and total disability as a direct result of their service to our country. They and their families have sacrificed health, quality of life, and often their dreams for the future. Many have lost their ability to work and pay off any school debt.”

“There are many veterans in our state who signed up to serve our country and suffered life-altering injuries as a result,” Major General (ret.) and Chief Civil Deputy Brian L. Tarbet said. “Discharging their student loan debt is simply the right thing to do. I personally know of military families in this situation who could benefit from this kind of assistance but would never ask for it. Let’s make it easier on them to make a better life for themselves after the life-changing sacrifices they made.”

Last year DOE identified more than 42,000 veterans nationwide as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability, the attorneys general note in their letter to Secretary DeVos. Fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, however, and more than 25,000 had student loans in default.

The letter urges an automatic loan discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt out for personal reasons “would eliminate unnecessary paperwork burdens and ensure that all eligible disabled veterans can receive a discharge.”

“Currently, far too few disabled vets who qualify for loan forgiveness have applied because they are unaware of or unable to make an application for the benefit,” Reyes said. “And far too many are in loan default, which negatively impacts their lives in very serious ways. Automatic forgiveness guarantees each of them the peace of mind they deserve and demonstrates our gratitude as a nation for what they have endured and continue to endure.”

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NOTES:

  1. Read a copy of the attorneys general letter to Secretary DeVos here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NAAG-Letter-to-Sec.-DeVos.pdf.
  2. The Utah Attorney General’s office leads Utah@Ease, a public-private partnership that offers legal assistance and representation to veterans and Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard service members. 
  3. The veteran’s groups supporting such proposals have included: Vietnam Veterans for America, Veterans Education Success, The Retired Enlisted Association, High Ground Advocacy, and Ivy League Veterans Council.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day

Today, in honor of our Vietnam veterans, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes shared the following statement:

On this National Vietnam War Veterans Day, we at the Office of the Utah Attorney General want to publicly thank and honor those who sacrificed so much in the Vietnam conflict and the families that stood alongside them during their service. Some of our colleagues in the AG’s Office fought in Vietnam with valor and distinction.

Over three million Americans served in the Vietnam War– a long, costly, and divisive conflict – and we lost more than 58,000 men and women as a nation. Tragically, according to the Veterans Administration, some 500,000 who served suffer severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, rates of divorce, suicide, alcoholism, and drug addiction are markedly higher among Vietnam veterans. For their sacrifice, it is our responsibility to acknowledge their contributions and provide resources designed to support them in whatever way possible.

Through programs like Utah@EASE, Sounds of Freedom, and our partnerships with the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs and Life’s Worth Living Foundation, we affirm our commitment to do all we can so our Vietnam veterans and their families find healing and peace.



Today, Governor Gary R. Herbert joined Rep. Chris Stewart and Major General Jefferson S. Burton in honoring the men & women that served in the Vietnam War. The Wreath Ceremony took place on the western grounds of the Capitol at the Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos Memorial. They were joined by Utah veterans and their families.

Veterans Monument honors vets lost by suicide

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes took a moment to support Life’s Worth Living Foundation’s new veterans monument, PROUD, to help shine a light on the outstanding rate of suicides among veterans.

An average of 20 veterans die every day from suicide, a number that includes active-duty service men and women. Raising awareness and providing resources is key to protecting those who currently serve or have served in our military.

“Over the last couple of decades, we’ve lost far more service men and women to death by suicide than to combat.” – Utah AG Reyes

The statue, sculpted by local artist Dan Snarr, depicts WWII vet Robert Calder. Calder was shot while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and then later fell down an elevator shaft, policing a building, and broke both his legs and back. Calder did not talk about his time in the war until shortly before he passed – a reality far too common among veterans and one that we hope to change. 

Hear more from AG Reyes and artist Dan Snarr below.

The Life’s Worth Living Foundation raised more than enough money to commission the statue and Snarr donated his time and materials for the cause. 

PROUD will be placed in Tooele Veterans Memorial Park on November 10th. The dedication ceremony starts at 2:00 p.m. and will be followed by a concert with up and coming country artists, J. Marc Bailey and Jamie Lee Thurston. 

 

Utah Joins Fight to Protect Veterans Memorial

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2018

 

UTAH JOINS FIGHT TO PROTECT VETERANS MEMORIAL
U.S. Supreme Court asked to weigh in on constitutionality of World War I memorial

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a bipartisan group of 28 states last week fighting to protect a historic cross in Maryland honoring World War I veterans as part of a case with much broader implications for the First Amendment.

The 28-state coalition urges the U.S. Supreme Court to consider and ultimately protect veterans memorials that include religious symbolism. The coalition’s friend of the court brief seeks to overturn a lower court’s ruling that a Maryland memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits making any law “respecting the establishment of religion.”

“This case focuses on a war memorial in Maryland honoring 49 soldiers who gave their lives in WWI, but it is much bigger than that,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “This Supreme Court decision will impact all of us in the manner in which we remember our history and honor our dead.  Utah understands that the U.S. Constitution should never force Americans to jettison faith, the First Amendment, or our sacred military history.”

The case at hand involves a nearly century-old memorial cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, built by community members and mothers, whose sons died in World War I, and the American Legion. The lawsuit brought by the American Humanist Association seeks to force the state to tear down and replace the historic cross.

If the Supreme Court were to review the case, its ultimate decision could impact hundreds of memorials across the nation, including those at Arlington National Cemetery.
 
Utah joined the West Virginia brief with attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
 

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NOTES:

  1. You can read the brief here:  https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Amicus-Brief-Veteran-Memorial.pdf
  2. Find more information about the Bladensburg Memorial here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Cross.

UTAH@EASE: Connecting Veterans to Legal Services

This week, the AG’s Office launched the Utah@EASE initiative.  This program will support military veterans, guardsmen, reservists, and active duty personnel. They put their lives on the line to support us, now we can give a little back by providing pro bono legal services in certain civil matters. 

Utah@EASE is a public/private partnership between the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Utah Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs, and the Utah State Bar. The initiative was recognized in House Concurrent Resolution 13, sponsored by Representative Val Peterson and Senator Pete Knudson, and signed by Governor Herbert.  You can watch the bill signing on our Facebook page

If you or someone you know is a military veteran in need of legal support, please pass along the contact information below.

Larry Schmidt
UTAH@EASE Director
ease@agutah.gov
385-227-9599

Our veterans will then be connected to local volunteer attorneys and firms.

Photo: James Motter on Unsplash

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