Leaving SF early in phase 2

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest3141592654 » Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:16 am

Guest9876543210 wrote:I am perfectly fine with paying a prorated amount if I leave early. I have no problem giving the money back its fair share as I would have failed to honor my commitment. However, I do NOT agree with how SMART handles the situation and consider it unjust to the recipients who want to leave early. Having to make the decision to leave early but without knowing a time table for when you will have to pay back (tens of thousands of dollars) and then expecting it to be promptly paid back within 30 days of notification is unjust!


Guest9876543210,

This issue may be this cut and dry for some participants, but for many, it is not. Many of us currently in phase 2, in phase 3, or left phase 2 all-together were "duped" regarding our job responsibilities by the awarding SF. It doesn’t take but a quick search on this forum to see that many of us, as BS, MS, and PhD graduate engineers spend / spent our work days:

-Repeatedly asking our supervisors for work
-Formatting hard drives
-Copying and editing spreadsheets
-Shredding paper
-Cruising the internet
-Doing mandatory online classes relating almost nothing at all to our respective fields

Talking to HR, our supervisors, to the cohort administrators, and to the service liaisons has yielded no change for many of us. We’re not asking to relocate to Skunk Works – we’d just like to use our degrees. What are we supposed to do in this case? Spend potentially years doing nothing, harming our career? Quit and risk paying back an enormous amount of money? I am personally conflicted – I really wanted this to work. The scholarship contract is so one-sided, it’s probably inevitable as to what will happen…but I really feel like SMART and the SF has the obligation to provide us a relevant career path, like they advertised.
Guest3141592654
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Larry » Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:55 am

By Phase 3 I assume you mean you've fulfilled your contractual obligations. Maybe this should be called the "Free Agent" phase. As a government employee you have a leg up on others when applying for jobs. You should not feel compelled to stay in the position you were hired into, or at the facility you currently are employed by. Get to conferences (easier this year), build your network, plan your strategy and go.

I will re-iterate as we move forward I urge students to work at the facility in a part time capacity (or fulltime) prior to taking the scholarship. You can learn a lot in a summer about what people are working on and what you would be doing.

Lastly, I'm curious - where are you currently working?

Best
Larrry
Larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby math_PhD » Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:04 pm

I think where things might get ugly is if SMART tries to make unreasonable terms for repayment. I left during Phase 1, and I understand that I'll have to pay back a lot of money. I made a mistake accepting SMART, and I'm willing to pay the consequences. However, it seems unreasonable that I was forced to make the decision to leave the program without knowing a timeline for payback, conditions for payback, or even how much I will have to pay, despite the fact that I pestered every contact I had at my SF, ASEE, and SPO for information.

Even then, if DFAS bills me an appropriate amount I will be content to suck it up and pay back. However, there are certain conditions that I would deem unreasonable. For example, if I am not provided a way to regain lost tax payments (assuming this takes more than two years and I am no longer able to amend my tax returns), if I am required to pay back internship earnings, or if I am charged interest for any period where I was not offered an opportunity to pay back principal.

I think SMART would do well to have open policies on these issues, but in the absence of that, I think it's important for those of us who have left to stay in contact and share information, since it appears that is the only way to be informed. That being said, for anyone else in the same boat, feel free to message me so we can swap emails and update one another if information comes out.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby larry » Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:10 pm

Much discussion in the building around the points you just made.

I make no predictions about what will be in the bill that DFAS sends as the Service Secretaries have to make that decision (per the statute they are the only people with the authority to waive the debt).

This is a good place to keep in touch and share your thoughts/complaints/wishes...


Best
Larry
larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:43 pm

What percentage of SMART recipients who left before completion of Phase II are being handed over to Service Secretaries (for consideration of forwarding their case to DFAS)? 100%? Or are there some cases (like a SMART recipient who died, had a medical hardship, etc.) that aren't even going to be considered by Service Secretaries for repayment?

Seeing as you say the Secretaries are the only ones who can waive repayment, it seems like you're also saying SMART is bound by law to hand over ALL of the accounts that before successful completion of Phase II.

That may be frustrating to those of us who have signed SMART letterhead telling us we have been dismissed with no obligation to repay.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:49 pm

Sorry, found some typos


What percentage of SMART recipients who left before completion of Phase II are being handed over to Service Secretaries (for consideration of forwarding their case to DFAS)? 100%? Or are there some cases (like a SMART recipient who died, had a medical hardship, etc.) that aren't even going to be considered by Service Secretaries for repayment?

Seeing as you say the Secretaries are the only ones who can waive repayment, it seems like you're also saying SMART is bound by law to hand over ALL of the accounts of students who left the program before successful completion of Phase II.

That may be frustrating to those of us who have signed SMART letterhead telling us we have been dismissed with no obligation to repay.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Larry » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:57 pm

An excellent question, also talked about at length.

There are two paths logical paths to DFAS.

The first would be take every delinquent account and send them to DFAS. DFAS would send a bill, the student would appeal, it would wind up in front of the Service Secretary for a decision.

The alternative is to go through the packages, remove the obvious and logical portions of the amount owed, and then send that amount to DFAS after confirming with the Service Secretary their desires. Presumably this is where the students with extreme circumstances would be dealt with (eg, death) All appeals end back in front of the Service Secretaries.

One or the other will occur. The second seems like it is more rationale, but will take longer to get out of the building.

I have no insight into what a Service Secretary will do and obviously until something happens it's just speculation. This is an area where I type very carefully. I don't want to give an impression that a decision has been made, or a timeline laid out. All of this occurred before I became aware of the SMART program...

For you students on the fence about leaving: Please don't. Stay in the program and finish.
Larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:04 pm

Thanks for the quick reply and your thoughts.

I was happy to get SMART in my rearview mirror. I hope whoever reviews my case decides that it deserved to go to the rearview mirror and they won't resurrect my case. It was stressful enough explaining my case the first time to bureaucrats. I'd hate to have to go through it all again. Unfortunately, it appears I may not be able to rest easy for a while longer yet.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Mon Nov 17, 2014 2:19 pm

Larry,

Do we have an update on what SMART is going to do regarding the payback? It has been a month since anything was posted here and I was just curious if you have heard anything about interest, payback period, etc.

Also, I saw in another thread SMART was going to create an official forum with a FAQ. Do you know when we might see that and will there be answers to payback?

Thanks so much for taking the time to help us! I am very thankful for you taking the time to respond to our concerns.
Guest
 

Postby little_one » Sun Dec 28, 2014 4:12 pm

Has anybody received a bill yet? I spoke to my CA two weeks ago who said that SMART would be sending out the bills to the students. I asked for specific details for those who resign such as interest rates, amount to be paid back, and other terms and she did not know that answer.

Before speaking to my CA, I received the email from the SMART office stating that the brochure had been updated with information for payments if one resigns, but it still doesn't contain any specifics.

How is it that the SMART program can legally do this? Don't they have to provide terms for paying the scholarship back?

If anyone has information on what they received from the SMART office for their resignation, it would be most helpful. Please share.
little_one
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Fitzsimmons » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:41 am

little_one wrote:Has anybody received a bill yet? I spoke to my CA two weeks ago who said that SMART would be sending out the bills to the students.


Yeah, they've been saying that for a while now. If they come up with a reasonable repayment plan, a LOT of people in phase 2 will leave immediately-- and they know it. That's probably why they haven't done it.

Obviously, the right thing to do would be to take your original award amount, subtract any time served, and possibly adjust for any extenuating circumstances that caused you to leave early. Then determine a reasonable repayment period that's agreeable to everyone. However, I've given up on the DoD/SPO doing the right thing, or the logical thing, or even the comprehensible thing. If I was a betting man, I'd say that they're going to bill you for the entire amount, and then force you to wrangle with them for a few years. I would be shocked if they actually tried to work something out with the scholars. I say that because my service liaison flat out refused to put me in contact with someone who could tell me what I would have to repay.

little_one wrote:How is it that the SMART program can legally do this? Don't they have to provide terms for paying the scholarship back?


I'm fairly sure it's not legal. Legal or not, the SPO should want to resolve this issue. I can't believe they've let it go for so many years. Again, they seem to use this as a tool to keep phase 2 SMARTs from leaving early. Personally, I think they should try improving the program so SMARTs don't want to leave, rather than threatening to ruin their lives if they leave early.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby little_one » Tue Dec 30, 2014 11:29 am

I'm fairly sure it's not legal. Legal or not, the SPO should want to resolve this issue. I can't believe they've let it go for so many years. Again, they seem to use this as a tool to keep phase 2 SMARTs from leaving early. Personally, I think they should try improving the program so SMARTs don't want to leave, rather than threatening to ruin their lives if they leave early.


Could not be more true. Perplexing how illogical this is.

I wonder if anyone has finally received this letter of repayment terms that is spoken of?
little_one
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Larry » Tue Dec 30, 2014 11:59 pm

I can assure you that the same bureaucracy that administers your government paycheck will eventually send you a bill for what is owed (DFAS). The higher up in a bureaucracy that one has to get approval for a plan, the longer it takes. As only the Service Secretary can waive SMART debt, it goes all the way to him (or her for the AF).

I agree - the SPO wants this resolved, we would like to put the "debt issue" behind us as well.

ATB
Larry
Larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Fitzsimmons » Wed Dec 31, 2014 9:31 am

Everyone knows a bill is going to show up eventually. Nobody knows what that bill is going to look like, and that's the problem.

The documentation isn't clear about this issue at all.

from the SMART participant handbook, Section 17.6:

Participants who have completed a portion of their Service Commitment will
receive a reduction of the required reimbursement commensurate with the amount of time served.


However, if you read the Notice of Withdrawal form on the SMART award portal:

Instruction:  If a participant withdraws from the program prior to completion of the service commitment, the participant may be responsible for the
prompt repayment of the entire award amount.


I would have to be an idiot to sign that.

Incidentally, the withdrawal form that's available online is quite a bit different than the one that was included with my orientation materials, which states that the repayment will be pro-rated. We always hear about how busy the SPO is, yet they have all the time in the world to constantly change documents and alter the handbook in an attempt to tilt the scales in their favor. But if you have a problem, they're just too darned busy to get to it.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:59 pm

If they let everyone who has left Phase 2 early go without paying it back, say because some lawsuit or fear of lawsuit questions the legality of no repayment terms, then everyone in the whole program should file suit against them for the full amount of the award due to unfair practices, even those who have already completed the commitment. It's not fair for someone to get $50k/year and tuition for four years and get away scot free and everyone else had altered their future path to avoid having to repay something they would never have had to repay after all. Forgiving all the scholars debt could be very expensive for the govt.

Another thought, since there are no prescribed repayment details, won't the govt have to file lawsuits against every breach of contract in order to originate the terms of the debt? Finally, if they don't hurry up, the statutes of limitations on collecting debt owed is going to start running out in several states.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:08 am

Has anyone heard anything about repayment?
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:10 pm

Any word on repayment? I'm considering the SMART program but would like to hear specifics about repayment.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:29 pm

My friend, there has been no update. I've been scouring this forum and asking around for the past 2 years.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby guest » Tue Mar 01, 2016 7:56 pm

1--I read an article which states that a recent law was passed that removed any statute of limitation on federal debts. Old veterans from the Vietnam era were being asked to repay overpayments.
2--The point about the government being stuck between a rock (asking for the money back) and a hard place (explicitly excusing the debt) is valid. My guess is that they will opt to "do nothing" for many years to come, unless someone steps in.
3--Before the SMART program even existed, the government would pay for training and education of their employees with similar commitment terms (even 2:1 repayment ratios). I have heard that those people were never pursued, although those were much smaller programs.
4--I have also read about cases (dealing with enlisted people), that were persued to pay back their debt. In fact DFAS even has an "education debt" category.
5--I'm totally in the dark as o how this will play out, I'm prepared to repay my debt provided that the repayment conditions are humane (I heard 15% of net salary is all they can ask for per year).
6-- I already spoke to a lawyer, and will make the call when/if the government comes knocking.
7-- there is a moral point to defend here: I didn't spend my entire life studying to sit in a chair and collect salary. I want to be/feel useful, in too many cases this program seems to be about fulfilling beurocratic requirements and forcing people to waste their lives (although I'm willing to admit it's a case by case thing). If the obligation they are asking us to fulfill is "sit here, do nothing, and collect salary", then I don't think that is an obligation worth fulfilling in "good continence".
guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby guest » Sun Mar 06, 2016 2:20 pm

I just left my SF and started with industry. Money wasn't a big deal to me, but my happiness was. I was extremely unhappy with my work situation with the government.

Last summer, I literally stared at a wall because they couldn't get me a computer. They gave me stacks of mind-numbing documents to read, and after I read them all, they gave me no work. It was depressing. Entering phase 2 was a little better, but all I did was write long documentation, I never used my engineering degree once. 6 hr long meetings watching someone edit a document. I felt worthless. Call me dramatic, but spending 4 hard years in college to get to this point was at the least discouraging.

So I left. Got a great job in industry, a computer within 2 hours, and I'm directly supporting the mission. I'm ready to pay back a reasonable (prorated) portion what I owe, but I feel betrayed by SMART and duped into thinking I'd be doing engineering.

The letter I received from the SMART PM stated: "Instructions for refunding to the US an appropriated amount as determined by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Section 2192a, title 10) will be provided to you at a later date." If anyone else is going through the same thing, let us know when you get a bill and any other info.
guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby anono » Mon Mar 14, 2016 9:23 pm

I still have 9 months left on $200K over 4.5 years. I just applied to a job, and HR wanted to know how much I owe. I calculated based on my amount owed from the website, but I asked for confirmation from the SPO. I received basically the same response:

"If you choose to withdraw, instructions for refunding to the United States an appropriate amount as determined by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Section 2192a, Title 10) will be provided to you at a later date. I cannot confirm any financial information for you."

I will still prepare in my mind that I will suddenly get a bill from the govt, but I think reading these posts has given me comfort that the government is so big that they may not ask until I am 75.

People who didn't have a computer for 2 years -- I am sorry. I actually enjoyed my experience, but realize I could be making almost 40% more in private industry.
anono
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest30 » Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:11 am

Has there been any updates about repayment? would like to know as I'm sure others on the board would as well
Guest30
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest31 » Sat Aug 26, 2017 10:14 am

Guest30 wrote:Has there been any updates about repayment? would like to know as I'm sure others on the board would as well

No update.
Guest31
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby guest097243 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:20 pm

Has anyone been subjected to worse working conditions or policies (e.g., lower pay, different treatment) than the other non-SMART employees on base? SPO will also not intervene with the SF in these cases. I am wondering if there is any precedent for how SMART has handled these departures.
guest097243
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby guest718 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:06 pm

guest097243 wrote:Has anyone been subjected to worse working conditions or policies (e.g., lower pay, different treatment) than the other non-SMART employees on base? SPO will also not intervene with the SF in these cases. I am wondering if there is any precedent for how SMART has handled these departures.


Enlisted members of the armed forces work under pretty bad conditions, yet they also can't get out of their contract and this has been an accepted standard (necessary evil) for millennia.
guest718
 

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