Earning an advanced degree with little or no debt sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? But for health care professionals who take advantage of VA’s Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP), it isn’t.

One of the most comprehensive education support programs in the nation, EDRP provides up to $40,000 a year — or $200,000 over a five-year period — in loan repayment.

“I still have a very large amount of medical school debt to service. The EDRP program helps to accelerate the pay off dramatically,” said Dr. Stephen Gau, a physician at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System in California.

Pay off loans faster

EDRP has helped more than 20,000 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees in the hardest to fill direct patient care positions repay their student loans faster.

“The beauty of the program is that it really is structured very well, making it a win-win-win for all — the participant, VHA and ultimately the Veterans receiving care from some of the most skilled providers out there,” said Teresa Culpepper, manager of Education Loan Repayment Services and VHA Pathways Programs officer.

Available EDRP-eligible positions often include:

  • Physicians (both general practice and specialties).
  • Registered nurses.
  • Licensed practical nurses.
  • Social workers.
  • Psychologists.

They can be easily found in vacancy announcements on USAJobs by entering the keywords “EDRP” and “Education Debt Reduction Program.” Jobs eligible for EDRP will often include that information under the “Learn more about this agency” link in the vacancy announcement.

Candidates applying for positions non-competitively should inquire about the program with human resources prior to negotiation.

How it works

To be eligible, you must have:

  • Earned a degree from an accredited school or program.
  • Have qualifying education debt (principal and interest) accrued in training for the one degree that qualifies you for the appointed position.
  • Hold and maintain an acceptable level of performance in the appointed position during the EDRP service period.

You’ll receive annual reimbursements for payments on your education debt — including tuition and other expenses such as fees, books, supplies, laboratory costs, equipment and materials.

“For many, $200,000 will cover their outstanding school loan balances and for others it will certainly help them pay a significant portion, relatively quickly,” Culpepper said.

The funds are tax-free and do not require a mandatory service agreement. If you choose to leave VHA before your five years are up, you don’t have to pay back any of the funds you have received.

“In those situations where ‘life happens’ and participants need to leave, as long as they leave in good standing, they can receive a pro-rated award amount based on the time worked. We are genuinely grateful for their contributions and wish them the very best in future endeavors,” Culpepper said.

Work at VA

Choose a health care career providing top-notch care to America’s Veterans and receive help paying off your student loans.

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Published on Nov. 13, 2020

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