SMART Payback Email

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Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Guest12435261 » Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:59 am

guest31415 wrote:All-

When I left/quit/"defaulted" it was more like I was forced out by my SF, so at the time it happened I went through several conversations with attorneys specializing in federal employment law. Given the high state of anxiety of myself and the others in this thread, I thought I would share some of the information I was provided.

First, on extensions: I was also a PhD student, and like most PhD students in this nation I did not finish within the five-year timeframe that is allotted by SMART. Even though my extension was minor (<1/2 year) I received relatively little understanding from the SMART office when I tried to discuss an extension with them, and they repeatedly used phrases like "we paid for you, we deserve to get what we paid for" (verbatim quote over the phone, I wrote it down because I found it so appalling). However, they backed off a bit after my sponsoring facility stated in writing that it was more important to them that I receive my degree rather than have me the small number of months earlier but without the degree. Therefore my strong impression was that, as consistent with their behavior on other issues for numerous other students on these forums, SMART just did whatever the SF wanted.

Once I entered Phase II, I felt I was forced out by openly hostile behavior by the management of my SF. I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty details here, but suffice it to say that many of their actions (which they admitted to in writing) were in violation of OMB policy. Some of their actions would have been downright illegal in private industry, but apparently according to the attorneys I spoke with the federal government has immunity from most employment laws and regulations.

That brings me to my final point: the advice of the attorneys. They both stated that, given the federal immunity to standard employment laws, the *only* recourse to address unfair treatment of a federal employee (even if the case did not seemed to be related to equal employment issues) was an EEOC complaint. Since I had spent time trying to resolve the issues first via every professional avenue I could think of (eg, communicating with management, communicating with HR, communicating with SMART, request for transfer to other management, request for transfer to another SF), the 45-day statute of limitations for a civil service EEOC complaint had expired. Also an EEOC complaint is just not my style- all I wanted was to be treated properly and without my management misusing my contract to enact policies specific to me as they attempted to make me "pay back" everything SMART gave me (their phrasing to me in justification of their actions).

Obviously this information is specific to my case and not everyone else's, so here comes the more general legal info as I was told it:

Our contracts are legally binding, even though they present no clauses for mediation or appeal given any kind of extenuating circumstances during any phase of the program. Apparently the time to negotiate for inclusion of such clauses would have been at the time we accepted the scholarship and signed the contracts. However, I don't know about you guys, but for me personally as a young student with a hefty dose of patriotic allegiance to my country I was mostly excited about the opportunity to serve my nation and did not have the savvy or worldly experience to anticipate being screwed over so heartily by my own government and think to negotiate the contract.

Both attorneys recommended that I begin writing letters to Congress. Apparently our Congresspeople can do whatever they want to both the contracts and the debts (including negating them or setting up terms for repayment), and short of that there is not much to be done.

I do agree that for those that simply wanted to leave repayment of debt is a reasonable expectation, but even for those cases the students deserve more information on the timeline and manner of repayment. There are those of us, however, that fell through the cracks of the intentions of the program. I am starting to flood every Congressional rep I can think of with letters starting today, and I really hope that the other people like me who want the terms of our contracts examined will do the same. This is not how our federal government should be treating people who genuinely just wanted to serve our country.


What did your letters say? Did you ever hear a response?

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Guestchris » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:33 am

testtest wrote:I called DFAS today. I'm wanted to inquire about possibly getting a tax credit for the tax that I have paid on the stipend.

The lady just said they didn't give tax advice so I didn't get anywhere with them.

Has anyone made any progress on this?



Work with a CPA on your next tax return. It can be tedious, but I believe you file an itemized deduction when trying to recoup taxes paid.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by testtest » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:14 pm

I called DFAS today. I'm wanted to inquire about possibly getting a tax credit for the tax that I have paid on the stipend.

The lady just said they didn't give tax advice so I didn't get anywhere with them.

Has anyone made any progress on this?

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by helpme » Tue May 29, 2018 9:27 am

2Gueat2 wrote:I called DFAS and talked to them today. Though I have not received my letter, by I am told it’s in the mail and expect to receive it soon, I learned what I owe. Since few are giving details other than “received letter” I’ll do my best to provide some clarity:

1. my amount owed was prorated.
2. The base amount used for payback calculation included everything but the money for heath insurance and internship money.
3. The terms of payback are 36 months to pay back the entire amount with 1% interest. So, to determine your Mo that payment take the prorated amount (exclude health insurance and any internship stipend payments) and multiply by 1.01z Dicus the result by 36. That is your expected monthly payment.
4. If you have extenduating circumstances, you can fill out a financial hardship form and send it to DFAS.
4.a. this includes a form detailing your finances: balances in all checking/savings/cash accounts, 3 Mo the of pay stubs, assets, debt obligations, etc.
5. You can appeal the amount owed one settlement) by submitting an explanation plus detailed financial work (see 4.a).
5.a. This review process takes 30-60 days (first in first out policy) and you still must make monthly payments while in review.
5.b. If your settlement amount is accepted, you have 30 days to pay the settlement amount or go back to the monthly collection amount.
5.c Any money collected prior to an settlement agreement (if DFAS agrees to settle) will NOT count towards your settlement agreement balance. So, if you try settlement make sure to include at least 2 months of payments .
6. My last smart payout/stipend/disbursement was end of 2013. My debt owed does NOT include the fact I paid taxes on this money but can no longer amend my return. According to DFAS, if the debt is considered “taxable debt” I’ll receive a form, from DFAS, explaining this and I include it in my 2018 tax return. I will then receive either a credit/deduction (depending on the refund amount).

All this information was gathered by speaking with a DFAS representative. Though I had not received a letter about repayment, as was proactive and called DFAS. I had to wait about 30 minutes but I found out a lot of good information (I.e. above). I also found out my letter is in the mail (as of April 17th) and expect to receive it soon. The DFAS people were very helpful and friendly. The lady even offered to help me out in a request to see all the documents SMART sent to DFAS to support debt collection. I am not happy about the situation but my amount I owe (according to DFAS) is fair expect for no discount for paying taxes. I strongly recommend those who withdrew early get out in front of this. Call DFAS and ask for the forms to appeal the amount owed. Worst case, you continue to make the minimum payments. If you owe money and have not received money I would plan to receive one my Monday/Tuesday of next week. The interest terms are quite resonabale (if you have the money put it in a online back where the interest earned is greater than the 1% SMART is charging).

Everyone’s circumstances are different and so I strongly suggest the settlement and/or financial hardship form while you make the minimum payments. Again, I know a lot of people are upset and we’re hoping not pay back anything, but we all knew the terms when we signed up and we must pay the piper.

For those wondering, I was a recruitment candidate and had a 1.5 year service commitment. My prorated amount is 5 figures and close to what I expected. I would say SMART is being white reasonable with the payback, though I’m sure a lot of people will disagree. Good luck to all!



Hold on please tell me i'm reading this incorrectly...you are being given 36 months to pay off the entire loan amount!? So if you owe 100k, you are expected to pay $2800 per month?

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Guest1010 » Fri May 18, 2018 2:38 pm

There are some of doing just that, paying back and happy to put this behind us. I left the program because the PhD I spent half a decade getting was effectively being put in the trash by my SF. Even if I wanted to do research on my own, I did not get the necessary support at my SF (refused to allow me to travel to present my own papers at top conferences). Sure I can complain, but I also know it is useless because yes I signed a contract and yes I saw it comming. The government operates on a set of rules designed for the lowest common denominator. No logic, empathy, or case-by-case consideration can be expected. I'm just thankful that all I owe them is a bit of money (ok alot of money) and nothing more.



FaceTheFacts wrote:
Sisyphus wrote:
FaceTheFacts wrote:Why don't yall face the punishment for leaving early? You had MULTIPLE warnings before accepting the scholarship and still agreed with the terms and conditions. Quit being babies, crying to attornies, and just suck it up buttercups


Not just don't know how graduate school does (or doesn't as the case often is) work. How about not wanting to tolerate abusive SF working environments... or SMART not doing it's job finding you a new SF and just throwing you away... or tried to get you to re-sign on less favorable terms and threw you out for refusing...

Yeah those were sure in the terms and conditions that people should accept life ruining debt for all right :roll:

Don't speak to things you know nothing of.


Well in that case, I apologize.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Sisyphus » Thu May 17, 2018 4:34 pm

Having gone through it first hand and collected numerous other stories even worse than mine, when I see SMART being given the benefit of the doubt on general repayment I get...just a lil bit salty.

Still, SMART doesn't exactly make it easy to see any of its failures, so no hard feelings.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by FaceTheFacts » Thu May 17, 2018 2:13 pm

Sisyphus wrote:
FaceTheFacts wrote:Why don't yall face the punishment for leaving early? You had MULTIPLE warnings before accepting the scholarship and still agreed with the terms and conditions. Quit being babies, crying to attornies, and just suck it up buttercups


Not just don't know how graduate school does (or doesn't as the case often is) work. How about not wanting to tolerate abusive SF working environments... or SMART not doing it's job finding you a new SF and just throwing you away... or tried to get you to re-sign on less favorable terms and threw you out for refusing...

Yeah those were sure in the terms and conditions that people should accept life ruining debt for all right :roll:

Don't speak to things you know nothing of.


Well in that case, I apologize.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Sisyphus » Thu May 17, 2018 1:58 pm

FaceTheFacts wrote:Why don't yall face the punishment for leaving early? You had MULTIPLE warnings before accepting the scholarship and still agreed with the terms and conditions. Quit being babies, crying to attornies, and just suck it up buttercups


Not just don't know how graduate school does (or doesn't as the case often is) work. How about not wanting to tolerate abusive SF working environments... or SMART not doing it's job finding you a new SF and just throwing you away... or tried to get you to re-sign on less favorable terms and threw you out for refusing...

Yeah those were sure in the terms and conditions that people should accept life ruining debt for all right :roll:

Don't speak to things you know nothing of.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by seanymou » Thu May 17, 2018 11:22 am

FaceTheFacts wrote:Why don't yall face the punishment for leaving early? You had MULTIPLE warnings before accepting the scholarship and still agreed with the terms and conditions. Quit being babies, crying to attornies, and just suck it up buttercups


“Yall”, LOL. Some of us didn’t “leave”, rocket scientist. Some of us were dismissed due to the program’s lack of understanding of how graduate school works.

P.S. You’re going to make a great federal employee.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by FaceTheFacts » Thu May 17, 2018 10:43 am

Why don't yall face the punishment for leaving early? You had MULTIPLE warnings before accepting the scholarship and still agreed with the terms and conditions. Quit being babies, crying to attornies, and just suck it up buttercups

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by DisillusionedScholar » Wed May 16, 2018 7:29 pm

For those of you interested in a class action lawsuit against the SMART program and / or personal legal representation for your debt dispute, please contact David P. Sheldon:

https://www.militarydefense.com/Attorney/

David is currently accepting the SMART cases and is convinced there are serious problems with the program.

Additionally, a number of us have had success contacting our State's US representatives offices (two Senate, one congressional in your district) to get congressional inquiries regarding SMART program failures and DFAS failure to follow due process regulations. Sounds like the congressional inquiry will force DFAS to suspend account collections-

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by NoNegotations » Thu May 03, 2018 9:54 am

Geosc956 wrote:
guest31415 wrote:

Our contracts are legally binding, even though they present no clauses for mediation or appeal given any kind of extenuating circumstances during any phase of the program. Apparently the time to negotiate for inclusion of such clauses would have been at the time we accepted the scholarship and signed the contracts.


I just received an award a few weeks ago. I went ahead and signed since you can back out after the site visit. But I was wondering if anyone has advice on how to go about adding a mediation clause and/or finding a lawyer to help. Does anyone have experience negotiating their contract for anything?

Thanks!


I wouldn't try to negotiate. They can easily drop you and find someone who wouldn't fight the terms.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Geosc956 » Thu May 03, 2018 9:49 am

guest31415 wrote:

Our contracts are legally binding, even though they present no clauses for mediation or appeal given any kind of extenuating circumstances during any phase of the program. Apparently the time to negotiate for inclusion of such clauses would have been at the time we accepted the scholarship and signed the contracts.


I just received an award a few weeks ago. I went ahead and signed since you can back out after the site visit. But I was wondering if anyone has advice on how to go about adding a mediation clause and/or finding a lawyer to help. Does anyone have experience negotiating their contract for anything?

Thanks!

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Mystery123 » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:05 am

Posting here as well since I think this is really important --

If you call DFAS and ask to have collections paused, they will tell you this is not possible even if you file a dispute. To get collections paused, you have to file a HEARING REQUEST, not just a dispute, which DFAS will not tell you when you call because they don't want us to know this. If you call and specifically ask what the hearing process is then you can get the info.
If you start making payments, you legally give up your right to fight the debt in court, so I would urge everyone who is considering fighting theirs to ask for a hearing to get collections paused vs. just starting to pay. Instructions on requesting a hearing here:

https://www.dfas.mil/civilianemployees/ ... aring.html

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Sisyphus » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:15 pm

Just a quick update that might be useful.

I just got off the phone with DFAS and they did NOT have an account/case for me yet. I mentioned specifically that I was inquiring about SMART and it appears it's a more gradual roll out and not an "all at once" operation with letters and terms for everyone who was in default ready to send out in bulk.

She said they just had a meeting that mentioned the program and that it could be up to another 30 days or so before you could expect receiving the initial letter for your debt and the initial repayment terms.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Sisyphus » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:34 pm

nobody123 wrote:When I called last week, DFAS said to request a full explanation of debt under "Miscellaneous miscellaneous" request category. I agree, we should all be asking for such a letter before paying anything.
I am trying to find a lawyer to help and don't plan on paying anything until I get legal advice.
I also reached out to my university-- I suggest everyone else do the same.


While reaching out to University contacts certainly can't hurt, I would advise you not to expect much. I'm at an extremely large and reasonably influential public research university and had contacts in the university administration from my teaching that I reached out to. Their Washington affairs people came to the conclusion that trying to get in contact with congressional representatives was the best avenue as there weren't really any levers for them to pull (this was before we knew for certain we were just getting schlepped off to DFAS but I don't expect that would change much).

Also in case anyone hasn't found these pages https://www.dfas.mil/civilianemployees/debt/Debt-Hearing.html if you do any sort of appeals/custom debt service agreement/etc. it would seem they do a more detailed reaccounting and breakdown as standard operating procedure (although what this might yield...who knows for sure until someone does).

Also, going by https://www.dfas.mil/civilianemployees/debt/debtwaivers.html it would seem we're on the hook already EVEN WHILE appealing...which especially if you are still currently enrolled in your degree program is almost certainly impossible to pay if you were sponsored for more than a year. We're getting completely steamrolled.

There is also the open question of what type of debt this falls into and is bankruptcy a possibility (if for no other reason that to act as leverage to negotiate a more sensible repayment schedule with DFAS; better they get something than nothing after all...)... however my guess from what I've read so far has me assuming this will also fall into that un-dischargable "education" debt that's the albatross around our entire generation's neck.

As discussed previously in this thread I'd urge everyone who is now in repayment and didn't just leave early for greener pastures to try any avenue to get congressional or other national attention. Also I'd urge you to read this post http://www.thesmartforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1887&start=25&sid=e829c95530bb28683bc45e9de71c04d8#p11833 and submit your own story, however brief, just so there is SOME collection we can cite about the overall impact this process is having.

Hanging separately isn't going to help any of us.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by nobody123 » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:17 pm

When I called last week, DFAS said to request a full explanation of debt under "Miscellaneous miscellaneous" request category. I agree, we should all be asking for such a letter before paying anything.
I am trying to find a lawyer to help and don't plan on paying anything until I get legal advice.
I also reached out to my university-- I suggest everyone else do the same.

Has anyone successfully gotten documentation from SMART yet? I have tried contacting them but was told I could only speak to DFAS. I am suspicious there is no documentation so would be curious if anyone has actually received it.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by PabloEscobar » Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:18 pm

My bill from DFAS just says "SMART Scholarship" several times without any explanation or breakdown of what i will be paying for. Shouldn't we ask them for a letter to affirm that if we pay the amount requested we don't owe anything else? Otherwise what's stopping them from just entering another bill into DFAS at a later date? Is there any gurantee that this is the first and only round?

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Guest » Sat Apr 21, 2018 1:03 pm

Given the info above. Your payment should be $282.08 per month per $10,000 you owe.
The excel formula is =PMT(1%/12,36,10000).

If the monthly payment is too high because the term is too short, you could try to finance with a bank. Looks like those rates are 4.5%-6.5% for a 10 year loan. This would be $103.64-$113.55 per month per $10,000.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by 2Gueat2 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:15 pm

I called DFAS and talked to them today. Though I have not received my letter, by I am told it’s in the mail and expect to receive it soon, I learned what I owe. Since few are giving details other than “received letter” I’ll do my best to provide some clarity:

1. my amount owed was prorated.
2. The base amount used for payback calculation included everything but the money for heath insurance and internship money.
3. The terms of payback are 36 months to pay back the entire amount with 1% interest. So, to determine your Mo that payment take the prorated amount (exclude health insurance and any internship stipend payments) and multiply by 1.01z Dicus the result by 36. That is your expected monthly payment.
4. If you have extenduating circumstances, you can fill out a financial hardship form and send it to DFAS.
4.a. this includes a form detailing your finances: balances in all checking/savings/cash accounts, 3 Mo the of pay stubs, assets, debt obligations, etc.
5. You can appeal the amount owed one settlement) by submitting an explanation plus detailed financial work (see 4.a).
5.a. This review process takes 30-60 days (first in first out policy) and you still must make monthly payments while in review.
5.b. If your settlement amount is accepted, you have 30 days to pay the settlement amount or go back to the monthly collection amount.
5.c Any money collected prior to an settlement agreement (if DFAS agrees to settle) will NOT count towards your settlement agreement balance. So, if you try settlement make sure to include at least 2 months of payments .
6. My last smart payout/stipend/disbursement was end of 2013. My debt owed does NOT include the fact I paid taxes on this money but can no longer amend my return. According to DFAS, if the debt is considered “taxable debt” I’ll receive a form, from DFAS, explaining this and I include it in my 2018 tax return. I will then receive either a credit/deduction (depending on the refund amount).

All this information was gathered by speaking with a DFAS representative. Though I had not received a letter about repayment, as was proactive and called DFAS. I had to wait about 30 minutes but I found out a lot of good information (I.e. above). I also found out my letter is in the mail (as of April 17th) and expect to receive it soon. The DFAS people were very helpful and friendly. The lady even offered to help me out in a request to see all the documents SMART sent to DFAS to support debt collection. I am not happy about the situation but my amount I owe (according to DFAS) is fair expect for no discount for paying taxes. I strongly recommend those who withdrew early get out in front of this. Call DFAS and ask for the forms to appeal the amount owed. Worst case, you continue to make the minimum payments. If you owe money and have not received money I would plan to receive one my Monday/Tuesday of next week. The interest terms are quite resonabale (if you have the money put it in a online back where the interest earned is greater than the 1% SMART is charging).

Everyone’s circumstances are different and so I strongly suggest the settlement and/or financial hardship form while you make the minimum payments. Again, I know a lot of people are upset and we’re hoping not pay back anything, but we all knew the terms when we signed up and we must pay the piper.

For those wondering, I was a recruitment candidate and had a 1.5 year service commitment. My prorated amount is 5 figures and close to what I expected. I would say SMART is being white reasonable with the payback, though I’m sure a lot of people will disagree. Good luck to all!

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by fuuuuu » Fri Apr 20, 2018 4:19 pm

Got my six figure debt today. The payments they set are more then half of what I earn. They never told us repayment terms we're going to be modeled after the mob.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by guest613 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:40 pm

Guest wrote:1.886.912.6488 M-F 7:30AM- 4:00PM EST
I believe you can provide your SSN to get to you account.


The number is 1.866.912.6488

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Guest » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:07 am

1.886.912.6488 M-F 7:30AM- 4:00PM EST
I believe you can provide your SSN to get to you account.

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by Sisyphus » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:14 am

Could someone who has called DFAS and gotten in touch with someone about the repayment process for SMART post the # they used here (which I assume is what was included in the letter)?

I mean maybe the letters didn't go out all at once but I haven't received mine yet and we all know the issues of the SMART website over the years allowing us to actually update our addresses... in my last communications with the SPO I relayed my new permanent address but I'd be lying if I said I trusted them to use the right info.

If you DON'T receive a letter but know you're in default status with the program just calling them up to inquire about your status in order to get the payment plans/deferment/try and negotiate settlements/etc. processes started would be a good idea... not looking forward to doing that myself...

Re: SMART Payback Email

Post by guest0987 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:04 am

I called the dfas number this morning and the lady was very helpful.
To the question regarding what the amount was for:
My letter just had a total and the explanation "SMART scholarship" repeated 5 times. I will be filling a ticket to get detail as to how the total was calculated. Unfortunately, the ticket has up to 90 days to get answered.

I was also told that we can file tickets to get on a payment plan with a request letter, a monthly amount proposed and a pay stub. That way we can keep the amount with 1% interest as opposed to the 6% from a collection agency if we do "nothing". I am not sure if this is fact yet because i dont have anything in writing. I am also aware of the juxtaposition that i will be in paying on something i dont know were it comes from while i fight to get some leniency.

She also mentioned something regarding the possibility of settling as well.

Please keep any updates coming on the best way to do handle this.
Pete

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