SMART Payback Email

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

SMART Payback Email

Postby anonymous1234999 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:48 pm

Has anyone else received this email below? Mine came today. Organization looks legit. Seems SMART will finally start collecting payments.

===================================================================================================

Dear SMART Scholar,



This email is to inform you that the SMART Scholarship Program will commence collection on default cases within the next 30 days.



Individuals who have defaulted on the SMART scholarship by not completing their academic pursuit or not completing their service commitment are accountable for repayment of funds expended on their behalf by the government through the scholarship.



Notifications will be mailed by the Components to those scholars who are in a default status. Please note that any questions need to be directed to the points of contact in the notification letter. SMART Program staff is not authorized to speak on behalf of the Components, and therefore cannot answer questions regarding the collection of debt owed to the government.



Sincerely,





SMART Staff

Supporting the SMART Scholarship for Service Program

LMI

1777 NE Loop 410, Suite 808

San Antonio, TX 78217

smartscholar@lmi.org



cid:bb5c50c6-9fee-418d-826f-c1b3b7c6b8d9

Learn more at http://www.lmi.org or follow us on: fb | twitter | linked in
===================================================================================================
anonymous1234999
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby User111 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:49 pm

Yup, got one of those this evening.
User111
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby User48 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:54 pm

Yeah got it this morning.
User48
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:00 pm

Never received one
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest2235 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:22 pm

How legit do people think this is?

Any idea what is meant by “Components”? Could that mean which DoD branch?

Anyone have any insight on what the payback terms are? Will it be prorated? Will we receive a discount for paying taxes on money we have to return? What about internship money?

This is interesting since I left early. O boy....
Guest2235
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby olwpdjdhfbbbs4 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:31 pm

Guest2235 wrote:How legit do people think this is?

Any idea what is meant by “Components”? Could that mean which DoD branch?

Anyone have any insight on what the payback terms are? Will it be prorated? Will we receive a discount for paying taxes on money we have to return? What about internship money?

This is interesting since I left early. O boy....


Oh man. I wonder how many people are like you and left early. Did you already payback some of the support payments on a prorated basis?
olwpdjdhfbbbs4
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby guest1234 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:37 pm

Interesting indeed. If collection has started there are many questions to resolve (perhaps in court). We can (and should) form a class action legal defense to ensure fair collective treatment/repayment (e.g. we should not have to repay money which we never received because we paid federal taxes for example). Many of us were retention participants actually working for our SF in one way or another and receiving pay stubs, must this money be repaid too? In any case collectively we can muster a much stronger legal team to represent us than individually.
guest1234
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest2235 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:48 pm

olwpdjdhfbbbs4 wrote:
Guest2235 wrote:How legit do people think this is?

Any idea what is meant by “Components”? Could that mean which DoD branch?

Anyone have any insight on what the payback terms are? Will it be prorated? Will we receive a discount for paying taxes on money we have to return? What about internship money?

This is interesting since I left early. O boy....


Oh man. I wonder how many people are like you and left early. Did you already payback some of the support payments on a prorated basis?



I did not know there was any option or way to payback any kind of money. I would have gladly paid a prorated and fair amount back but they never gave me a way to. Also, will there be interest? I don’t know how it could be legal to add interest since SMART has been the one who is late on figuring out how to collect repayment. I blame LMI for taking over control of SMART.
Guest2235
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby user1234 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:53 pm

Another thought. LMI took over the SMART program very recently (late last year), perhaps part of the contract was "LMI must begin the repayment process". Perhaps this email takes a tiny step in that direction. Collection is going to be a pain in the ass for whoever is in charge of the SMART program, no wonder no other agency/contractor ever started it.
user1234
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby olwpdjdhfbbbs4 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:14 pm

Guest2235 wrote:
olwpdjdhfbbbs4 wrote:
Guest2235 wrote:How legit do people think this is?

Any idea what is meant by “Components”? Could that mean which DoD branch?

Anyone have any insight on what the payback terms are? Will it be prorated? Will we receive a discount for paying taxes on money we have to return? What about internship money?

This is interesting since I left early. O boy....


Oh man. I wonder how many people are like you and left early. Did you already payback some of the support payments on a prorated basis?



I did not know there was any option or way to payback any kind of money. I would have gladly paid a prorated and fair amount back but they never gave me a way to. Also, will there be interest? I don’t know how it could be legal to add interest since SMART has been the one who is late on figuring out how to collect repayment. I blame LMI for taking over control of SMART.


There wasn't an option to repay. They have been unclear on how they will enforce repayments, but the contract did say you would be on the hook in some way. I'm thinking back to an ancient thread here that was talking about how SMART had no means to force a repayment People were talking about leaving because of they thought they could get away with it! I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be rude, but what were you expecting to happen?
olwpdjdhfbbbs4
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Sisyphus » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:27 pm

olwpdjdhfbbbs4 wrote:
There wasn't an option to repay. They have been unclear on how they will enforce repayments, but the contract did say you would be on the hook in some way. I'm thinking back to an ancient thread here that was talking about how SMART had no means to force a repayment People were talking about leaving because of they thought they could get away with it! I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be rude, but what were you expecting to happen?


For anyone who just up and left I don't really have any sympathy without a good story to back it up, but there are at least several of us PhD students (and I'm sure many more who haven't posted) who tried their best to uphold their end of the bargain but just got kicked in the nuts by the PhD process and couldn't finish fast enough and got cast off into the cold. Hell the general base rate is less than half of people succeed in their PhD, and as good as SMART funding was plus candidate screening that hardly guarantees success...the way this whole program was designed w/r/t a PhD was a massive mistake and I'm a fucking idiot for having ever signed off on it.

LMI just did this to me without warning on the verge of finishing so if they come after me hard you can bet I'm getting a lawyer and fighting them tooth and nail if they don't just let me go do my time at either my SF or some other DoD facility as originally planned.

Plus WTF just sending out this email to apparently everyone; scaring people in good standing and just confusing the hell out of the rest of us actually in 'default' because who knows if they're ACTUALLY doing anything or if it was an accidental spam. I swear to god by their behavior I'd think LMI was contracted to salt the earth.
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby concernedPHD » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:35 pm

Sisyphus wrote:
olwpdjdhfbbbs4 wrote:
There wasn't an option to repay. They have been unclear on how they will enforce repayments, but the contract did say you would be on the hook in some way. I'm thinking back to an ancient thread here that was talking about how SMART had no means to force a repayment People were talking about leaving because of they thought they could get away with it! I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be rude, but what were you expecting to happen?


For anyone who just up and left I don't really have any sympathy without a good story to back it up, but there are at least several of us PhD students (and I'm sure many more who haven't posted) who tried their best to uphold their end of the bargain but just got kicked in the nuts by the PhD process and couldn't finish fast enough and got cast off into the cold. Hell the general base rate is less than half of people succeed in their PhD, and as good as SMART funding was plus candidate screening that hardly guarantees success...the way this whole program was designed w/r/t a PhD was a massive mistake and I'm a fucking idiot for having ever signed off on it.

LMI just did this to me without warning on the verge of finishing so if they come after me hard you can bet I'm getting a lawyer and fighting them tooth and nail if they don't just let me go do my time at either my SF or some other DoD facility as originally planned.

Plus WTF just sending out this email to apparently everyone; scaring people in good standing and just confusing the hell out of the rest of us actually in 'default' because who knows if they're ACTUALLY doing anything or if it was an accidental spam. I swear to god by their behavior I'd think LMI was contracted to salt the earth.


What's your story? Just curious, because I am signed on until May 2020 as a PhD, so I am worried about finishing in time. Did you apply for an extension? If so, was it denied? Also, what other options do we have if we don't finish in time? Can you take a leave for like a year to finish?
concernedPHD
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Sisyphus » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:43 pm

The shortest summary is (according to someone else who posted here but I have no idea where they got the info so take it with a grain of salt) apparently LMI now has a new limit of two years LoA max post funding for you to finish before they just throw you in default. I have not seen this documented or communicated anywhere as a change so who actually knows. Could be less, more or entirely subjective.

What I do know is I was beyond this because my first topic cratered and I basically had to start from scratch; combine that with asking for a shorter than I should have funding interval (because I thought I could continue my MS work easily into a PhD...whatcouldgowrong.exe...) so I wind up taking far too long for their liking.

Upon extending one more semester to finish up my dissertation/papers and hold my final exam they throw me out apparently retroactively and without warning for violating this supposedly new or maybe always there but just not invoked standard. My SF contact said that my previous extension was 'their limit' but this was never communicated to me either anywhere so I couldn't even use that to put pressure on my advisors to help me get out faster.

So here I am trying to finish this May before the anxiety about all this totally destroys my ability to work...and now they're sending random threat emails out that I have no idea how to interpret. To say I am furious is an understatement.
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby concernedPHD » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:09 pm

Sisyphus wrote:The shortest summary is (according to someone else who posted here but I have no idea where they got the info so take it with a grain of salt) apparently LMI now has a new limit of two years LoA max post funding for you to finish before they just throw you in default. I have not seen this documented or communicated anywhere as a change so who actually knows. Could be less, more or entirely subjective.

What I do know is I was beyond this because my first topic cratered and I basically had to start from scratch; combine that with asking for a shorter than I should have funding interval (because I thought I could continue my MS work easily into a PhD...whatcouldgowrong.exe...) so I wind up taking far too long for their liking.

Upon extending one more semester to finish up my dissertation/papers and hold my final exam they throw me out apparently retroactively and without warning for violating this supposedly new or maybe always there but just not invoked standard. My SF contact said that my previous extension was 'their limit' but this was never communicated to me either anywhere so I couldn't even use that to put pressure on my advisors to help me get out faster.

So here I am trying to finish this May before the anxiety about all this totally destroys my ability to work...and now they're sending random threat emails out that I have no idea how to interpret. To say I am furious is an understatement.


Ouch.. I'm so sorry to hear that. I am 2 years from "finishing" and I'm already getting anxious. In the same boat as you about finished master's and probably underestimated my PhD. Did you apply for an extension within the 120 days (I think it's this long) they recommend?
concernedPHD
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby olwpdjdhfbbbs4 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:56 pm

Sisyphus wrote:
olwpdjdhfbbbs4 wrote:
There wasn't an option to repay. They have been unclear on how they will enforce repayments, but the contract did say you would be on the hook in some way. I'm thinking back to an ancient thread here that was talking about how SMART had no means to force a repayment People were talking about leaving because of they thought they could get away with it! I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be rude, but what were you expecting to happen?


For anyone who just up and left I don't really have any sympathy without a good story to back it up, but there are at least several of us PhD students (and I'm sure many more who haven't posted) who tried their best to uphold their end of the bargain but just got kicked in the nuts by the PhD process and couldn't finish fast enough and got cast off into the cold. Hell the general base rate is less than half of people succeed in their PhD, and as good as SMART funding was plus candidate screening that hardly guarantees success...the way this whole program was designed w/r/t a PhD was a massive mistake and I'm a fucking idiot for having ever signed off on it.

LMI just did this to me without warning on the verge of finishing so if they come after me hard you can bet I'm getting a lawyer and fighting them tooth and nail if they don't just let me go do my time at either my SF or some other DoD facility as originally planned.

Plus WTF just sending out this email to apparently everyone; scaring people in good standing and just confusing the hell out of the rest of us actually in 'default' because who knows if they're ACTUALLY doing anything or if it was an accidental spam. I swear to god by their behavior I'd think LMI was contracted to salt the earth.


Each SMART scholar's situation is different you're 100% correct. I'm mainly looking at the people who thought they could just walk out on the contract. I've never posted in this forum before, only lurked. Because I was curious, I did a search for "repayment" in this forum. Here are some of the posts. I know you guys are out there shaking in your boots. Better get out of the country while you still can!! (seriously though lawyer up)

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=466&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p4386

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=492&p=5576&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p4543

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=608&p=5564&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p5564

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=861&p=6393&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p6302

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=947&p=6759&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p6759

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1010&p=7046&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p7045

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1291&p=8024&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p8018

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1613&p=10249&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p10166

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=549&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p5137

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=621&p=10882&hilit=repayment&sid=2c2aa195e01c61c0cebbbe0cc275cc43#p5654
olwpdjdhfbbbs4
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby guest300400 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:19 am

Sisyphus wrote:The shortest summary is (according to someone else who posted here but I have no idea where they got the info so take it with a grain of salt) apparently LMI now has a new limit of two years LoA max post funding for you to finish before they just throw you in default. I have not seen this documented or communicated anywhere as a change so who actually knows. Could be less, more or entirely subjective.

What I do know is I was beyond this because my first topic cratered and I basically had to start from scratch; combine that with asking for a shorter than I should have funding interval (because I thought I could continue my MS work easily into a PhD...whatcouldgowrong.exe...) so I wind up taking far too long for their liking.

Upon extending one more semester to finish up my dissertation/papers and hold my final exam they throw me out apparently retroactively and without warning for violating this supposedly new or maybe always there but just not invoked standard. My SF contact said that my previous extension was 'their limit' but this was never communicated to me either anywhere so I couldn't even use that to put pressure on my advisors to help me get out faster.

So here I am trying to finish this May before the anxiety about all this totally destroys my ability to work...and now they're sending random threat emails out that I have no idea how to interpret. To say I am furious is an understatement.


I was told that the LOA extension was limited to two years by my supervisor who spoke directly with the SMART Program office. They have not updated the manual to reflect this new information.
guest300400
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest2235 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 9:20 am

I fully expect to have to pay back a prorated amount since I left early. I knew what would happen leaving early. I think the bigger issue is SMART has kept everyone in the dark for so long about repayment and has never provided any information about the repayment process. I think everyone's situation is very different and some people had bad SFs, some failed to graduate, others left for personal reasons, and some just plain left. I think for SMART to collect repayment there are just a lot of unanswered questions that people want to know so they can prepare for the payback. When you take out a loan for school you know the terms (interest rate, payment plan, etc) and with SMART we know nothing. Again, numerous questions need to be answered:

1. Is the amount prorated? Many of us have signed documentation saying the amount would be prorated but the handbook has been since updated to say something along the lines of "all money expended."

2. Will interest be charged from the date money was disbursed? Many people have suggested this but that is completely unreasonable to collect interest for something that people aren't even able to pay down.

3. Will the internship stipend money be part of the payback? This was supposed to be provided if your SF was more than X miles away from school as a means to provide for living expenses during your internship. Seems unfair to have to payback money that was given so you could work during the mandated internship.

4. What about disbursements more than 3 years old? People have already pay taxes on these and you can not amend a tax return greater than 3 years old. So, you would be paying taxes on money that was essentially a loan and therefore paying more than what was provided to you.

5. Will there be a payment plan? Will there be interest? What will the interest rate be?

6. Will there be an appeals process?

These are just some that come to my mind. Everyone's situation is unique and I think to just send a blatant email without providing more details other than notices will go out over the next 30 days is a little pathetic.
Guest2235
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby guest31415 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:49 am

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.
guest31415
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Andrew » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:47 am

Interesting that I also received this email and I am still working at my sf...

No idea why I would have "defaulted"...
Andrew
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby guest31415 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:07 pm

Andrew wrote:Interesting that I also received this email and I am still working at my sf...

No idea why I would have "defaulted"...


It seems (based informally on my conversations with friends in various phases of the program) that they simply sent this letter to everyone who has ever been part of the program regardless of whether they actually left early or not. Again- unofficial info, may be wrong.
guest31415
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Andrew » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:30 pm

Yep, mass email to everyone. I received a reply from my administrator stating:

"This was a notification email that went to all scholars for their awareness."
Andrew
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Strange » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:35 pm

Andrew wrote:Yep, mass email to everyone. I received a reply from my administrator stating:

"This was a notification email that went to all scholars for their awareness."


Strange that I didn’t receive an email. Any other 2017 awardees receive it?
Strange
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby ky502 » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:44 pm

Strange wrote:
Andrew wrote:Yep, mass email to everyone. I received a reply from my administrator stating:

"This was a notification email that went to all scholars for their awareness."


Strange that I didn’t receive an email. Any other 2017 awardees receive it?


I am 2017 awardee currently just finishing my first internship (my school does a weird schedule), and I didn't receive the letter.
ky502
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Sisyphus » Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:18 am

guest31415 wrote:All-

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.


Huh...I actually had this as a random idea that popped into my head the other day and thought it was over the top/absurd. Guess I know what I'll be doing over the weekend...

Anyone who does manage to get a representative's attention on this issue I'd hope could post the info here so we could start to all coalesce on this as opposed to all taking our own shots in the dark looking for help.

Call me cynical but I don't expect that whatever is coming soon as stated in that letter will in any way resemble due process, much less take individual circumstances into account, so the sooner we can find a way to put the brakes on this the better...
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby superguest » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:11 am

i didn't get the email. feeling very left out. maybe i am kicked out of the program. does that mean i can sleep now?

to any who send repayment checks to the MAN, can you update the rest of us on the details? would like to know what the repayment plan looks like.

also, very disappointed the LMI email didn't end with "would be a shame if something happened to that pretty little degree of yours"
superguest
 

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