Earlier this month, Allison Gill saw her online student loan debt drop from $ 72,400.97 to… $ 0.
It was an emotional and uplifting moment for Gill, who posted a photo on Twitter to its over 143,000 subscribers with the caption “Thank you, @POTUS.”
Gill, a disabled veteran, is one of more than 500,000 borrowers whose student debt has been canceled as part of the Biden administration’s attempt to fix the federal student loan system. At the end of August, the Biden administration announced that borrowers with total or permanent disability would have their student loans canceled. The change applied to borrowers identified through an existing data match with the Social Security Administration.
“I felt immense relief. I mean, I cried about it. I really cried about it,” said Gill.
Almost $ 10 billion in student loan debt has been written off since President Biden took office. Beneficiaries include people with disabilities, those who have been swindled by for-profit schools and soldiers deployed to war zones.
Gill falls into two of these categories.
She racked up her loans while earning a doctorate to secure a specific government job – a job she was laid off in 2020 under the Trump administration.
Gill, 47, of San Diego, joined the Navy in 1994, the first year she licensed women to serve as nuclear reactor technicians and mechanics. She says she was recruited because of her high test scores and was brought to Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. In the few years she served, says Gill, she was sexually assaulted – twice.
“I have 100% PTSD from this trauma,” she said.
In 1996, Gill was honorably released. (She appeared in the 2012 documentary, The invisible war, an investigative documentary into the outbreak of soldier rape in the U.S. military.)
After leaving the military, Gill obtained his bachelor’s degree in behavioral science, free of charge due to his status as a disabled veteran. Next, she earned her masters degree, paid for by the GI Bill (The GI Bill provides educational assistance to military personnel, veterans, and their dependents.)
In 2009, after graduation, Gill found a job as a medical clerk with the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA. She loved her job so much that in 2010 she decided to get her doctorate in health administration; it was a decision she knew that would help her advance in the VA both in terms of job title and pay.
After seven years, she had about $ 76,000 left in student loans. But she landed the job she hoped for as a health systems specialist.
Gill continued to work for the VA while paying off her loans, but in 2017 she started a podcast that would ultimately leave her jobless. This was around the time of Special Advocate Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia. Gill became fascinated with the situation and wanted to create a place where people could get all the latest news. So she started a podcast nights and weekends called Mueller, she wrote.
“It was a hobby because I worked for the federal government,” she said. “I didn’t use my name or my title. And I hired a lawyer to advise me on how not to violate the Hatch Act.” (The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in certain forms of political activity.)
But the Office of the Attorney General opened an investigation into his podcast – which had gained popularity with more than 100,000 subscribers and fans.
“I was told that I could not be represented on any of the calls, and that started the long journey that eventually took me out of my federal government job, ”she said.
After being fired, Gill continued to podcast. Then she and a group of other podcasters raised half a million dollars for President Biden and Vice President Harris’ campaign, as well as Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s Senate campaigns in Georgia.
“The irony is that Trump fired me. But then I was able to turn around and help him fire him,” she laughed.
And now, thanks to the president she helped get elected, her loans have been canceled.
Gill is grateful for Biden’s initiative, but hopes he takes it even further.
“My number one feeling was instant relief, but my number two thought is still why aren’t we doing this for every American?” Gill said.