Leaving SF early in phase 2

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Larry » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:11 am

By way of introduction I joined this forum after being introduced to the SMART program at a meeting in the Pentagon.

I have sat through the (countless) discussions about debt collection. My sense is that the government will soon be asking for $$ back from prior recipients after (most likely) taking in a number of factors into account (eg, age of debt, time worked...).

Should you elect to leave your SF/the program, I highly recommend taking that step with eyes wide open and a sense of "what's the worst they can do to me", and not "maybe they'll ignore me". This is the government: you got a benefit, the law expects you to live up to your obligations even if the government hasn't (not my feelings on this matter, but I've watched the government in action long enough to see what is possible).

I'd also engage in a meaningful dialogue with your mentor/supervisor. No one wants an unhappy & smart employee. While your supervisor maybe powerless in the near term to help you, over the long term they can assist. I have helped hundreds of employees move from one location to another in my career - I don't see why they wouldn't be willing to do the same.
Larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby math_PhD » Sun Jun 01, 2014 6:07 pm

Btw, any updates from people who have already withdrawn on the "debt collection begins in early 2014..." ?
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby CMMMM » Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:25 pm

Larry's advice is solid.

If the program sets the precedent of collecting a reduced amount, say academic year stipend only, or something like that, I predict a mass exodus of phase 2 participants.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Wed Jun 11, 2014 2:54 pm

Thanks Larry for the advice and insight.

I just want to add that if payback is widely pursued by the Government, at some point the law will likely decide that it is unreasonable for SMART Scholars to pay the amount given in ISP.

I do not plan on leaving the program, btw.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:04 pm

Just wanted to see if anyone has received a letter/email asking for repayment. SMART said they would start collecting this year but haven't heard of anyone who has been asked. I am considering leaving but wanted to know how the repayment process works since SMART (which doesn't live up to their name) doesn't know how the repayment process works. Thanks.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby math_PhD » Fri Aug 22, 2014 5:53 pm

I emailed the SPO asking about timeline, payment options, interest charged, internship payments and the like for payback. This is the response I got:

The total funds expended on your behalf under your SMART scholarship award can be found by logging into https://smart.asee.org/award. 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.

You will receive a debt repayment notice from DFAS. In that notice it states, “DFAS-IN 37-1, Chapter 17, paragraph 171202 requires that you respond to us within 30 days of receipt of this letter to avoid collection action, to include an administrative fee, interest and penalties”. Any amounts and timing are determined by DFAS.

SMART internships are unpaid internships. The Internship Support Payments that you received were intended to defray the cost of travel and lodging during your internship period. They were not an exchange for work performed. They were funds expended on your behalf and are therefore recoverable.

If you have any further questions or would like to set up a conference call please let me know.


Sounds like they are going to try to get back internship monies, and charge interest and basically get back everything they can. I'm not surprised, given how the program tries to screw everyone over at every turn. I think it's borderline criminal to take back internship payments, and to charge interest, and not to give any terms before we have to make the decision to withdraw. I plan to withdraw. If anyone else is in the same boat, I believe the more information we share the stronger legal position we all have.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby CMMMM » Fri Aug 22, 2014 6:58 pm

Thanks for posting this. Clawing back the support payments is such a dick move...The SMART program really is a terrible deal for students; I've tried to dissuade every single one I've met from even applying. I can only hope I've saved a few others from making the mistake I did by accepting it.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby smartboss » Sun Aug 24, 2014 1:13 am

I have already left and when I left I was told that the internship payments would not be part of the repayment. I also would have a legal case against the taxes we paid on money that we recieved and now would have to pay back during repayment. Also, I would have a contention of the period where I was furloughed, I don't think that I should pay back for the time I was guareenteed full-time work and made to work part-time.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby guest123 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:50 pm

I am also planning on leaving and trying to get as much information about withdrawing from the program. Has anybody been officially billed? Because it sounds kind of hit or miss right now. Either way I am gathering as much information about my time here as possible (furlough notices, furlough appeal denials, government shutdown notices, lack of travel funds, facility transfer rejections) Please let know if I forgot anything that could be useful. Thank you.

As for the internships not being "paid internship", check out the SMART website under benefits. It advertises the internships as paid, not Support Payment Internships. I bet lawyers are going to have field day with that.
guest123
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby frustSMART » Wed Oct 01, 2014 2:44 pm

Just to revive this, has anyone heard anything regarding repayment yet? Still interested to see how these are handled.
frustSMART
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby larry » Wed Oct 01, 2014 3:33 pm

We are not done with the internal staffing on this issue (within the Pentagon).

At some point in the future, DFAS will send out bills to those who owe money.

It would be premature to speculate on when DFAS will send bills out or how they will be handled. But a bill is coming.

Larry
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby math_PhD » Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:31 pm

Thanks, Larry, for updating us based on the information that you have. Can you post anything here if you have more information in the future (such as discussions of how this will be handled or any inkling of a timeline)?
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Larry » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:20 pm

I've never lost money betting on the ineptness and slowness of bureaucracy.

I've also never been wrong about the government eventually coming out with a hammer.

When I hear something official, I'll post it here...
Larry
Larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby frustSMART » Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:07 am

Thanks for the update! Once people get their bills, I'd be interested to see if they charge the full amount, or a prorated amount. There still seems to be a cloud of uncertainty regarding this...
frustSMART
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:11 am

Seriously?!? It would most certainly be prorated!
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby larry » Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:25 pm

There is always a wide seperation between what should happen, and what could happen.

A quick read of the Statute is a good place to start as that sets the parameters of what could happen.

My advice is to not leave the program...
larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby frustSMART » Mon Oct 06, 2014 3:46 pm

The advice is understood larry. I would advise that anyone thinking about leaving understand what it means. For example, a following the references will let you know what interest rate you should expect after leaving the program. These are the types of details you need to record and be aware of to help you make an informed decision.
frustSMART
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby ReadyToQuit » Wed Oct 08, 2014 12:47 pm

I am six months past graduation and still no word on a job offer or work start date. Over the past year my SF has flip flopped four times on whether or not they actually can hire. Every time they claimed they couldn't hire me, I pursued potential openings at other DoD labs (with the help of my liason), was offered positions, only for my SF to block it at the last second by saying they could suddenly "hire me". I know paperwork was submitted to HR back in June, but no word since. My POC recently left the lab too so contacting anyone is near impossible.

However, another federal lab (non-DOD) has now offered me a permanent position. Would accepting this job, since it is still a federal position, eliminate or at least knock back the amount owed if they ever do come asking for the money? I will be doing work for multiple DOD agencies (through various IAAs) if I were to take this position.
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Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest » Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:57 am

ReadyToQuit wrote:I am six months past graduation and still no word on a job offer or work start date. Over the past year my SF has flip flopped four times on whether or not they actually can hire. Every time they claimed they couldn't hire me, I pursued potential openings at other DoD labs (with the help of my liason), was offered positions, only for my SF to block it at the last second by saying they could suddenly "hire me". I know paperwork was submitted to HR back in June, but no word since. My POC recently left the lab too so contacting anyone is near impossible.

However, another federal lab (non-DOD) has now offered me a permanent position. Would accepting this job, since it is still a federal position, eliminate or at least knock back the amount owed if they ever do come asking for the money? I will be doing work for multiple DOD agencies (through various IAAs) if I were to take this position.



My SF pulled a similar stunt. I ended up leaving the government all together and took a job in private industry. My advice, take a job that is offered when it is offered. Let SMART know what you've done and why you've done it. If they threaten you with repayment, contact a lawyer and congressional reps and let them know what SMART is doing.

SFs still have a lot of learning to do. Larry may say that hiring is easy peezy with the direct hiring authority that SMART has, but SFs are run by bureaucrats who will be more than happy to find a way to stop a hire if they don't want to go through with it, regardless of their direct hiring authority.

See the writing on the wall and realize that someone at the SF doesn't want you hired, while someone else does. Those parties can play tug of war all they want, but they are failing to realize your livelihood is hanging in the balance.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby larry » Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:44 pm

Thanks for sharing on this forum.

Working for a different federal agency isn't allowed under the Statute and if you read the Statute you can see that the Service Secretary is the only person who can legally waive the debt.

Please give me enough information so I can go pry open the can of worms that you describe (your first name, the SF you want to work at).

Best
Larry
larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby larry » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:49 am

ReadyToQuit wrote:I am six months past graduation and still no word on a job offer or work start date. Over the past year my SF has flip flopped four times on whether or not they actually can hire. Every time they claimed they couldn't hire me, I pursued potential openings at other DoD labs (with the help of my liason), was offered positions, only for my SF to block it at the last second by saying they could suddenly "hire me". I know paperwork was submitted to HR back in June, but no word since. My POC recently left the lab too so contacting anyone is near impossible.

However, another federal lab (non-DOD) has now offered me a permanent position. Would accepting this job, since it is still a federal position, eliminate or at least knock back the amount owed if they ever do come asking for the money? I will be doing work for multiple DOD agencies (through various IAAs) if I were to take this position.



Please post your first name and the location/name of the facility that was supposed to hire you.

I want to look into this.

Larry
larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby larry » Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:06 am

I just pulled the thread at the SMART Program Office.

Makes my head hurt. I'll get you an update later today.

Larry
larry
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Guest9876543210 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:10 am

Hi. I just wanted to share information I have gathered from my service liaison as to what happens if I leave phase 2 early.

In talking with my service liaison I was told that if I left SMART early in phase 2 the process is like this:

1. I notify my SMART CA that I am leaving the program before ending my phase 2. (fill out appropriate forms)
2. SMART CA will than gather EVERY piece of document they have on me from the start of me applying for SMART: application papers, signed agreements, all email correspondence, etc. All files are placed in a service folder.
3. This service folder is than sent to the Legal Dept for my service. ** This is where the terms of my payback are determined **
4. Once legal determines what I have to payback than DFAS is notified.
5. DFAS notifies me the amount I have to pay and how to pay it back.

I was told the amount of time needed to gather everything (#2) and Legal's decision (#3) take the longest. I was told it could be up to a year or more just because they have only just started to ask for money back. Hence, legal is was behind the curve and it is taking them a while to get through all the paperwork. I asked about talking with legal to get an idea about the time frame and I was told they won't even talk to you until after you have already left...

Also, I have a paper I signed when I was hiring saying:


I agree that if I fail to fulfill the post-graduation service commitment, I will be indebted to the U.S. Treasury and promptly reimburse the U.S. Government for any and all funds expended on my behalf. The amount will be prorated commensurate with the amount of time I have satisfactorily served in the post-graduation commitment.


Also, if anyone would like to see what the law says I was told to look at OSD Sec. 2192a, Title 10, part (e) - Refund for Period of Unserved Obligated Service - [I] would have to refund "an appropriate amount, as determined by the Secretary." The link for anyone who is interested:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/2192a

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! I have talked to a lawyer (works with contracts) about my situation and he is confident I would not have to pay more than the prorated amount given that I have a document stating it "WILL BE" prorated unlike the handbook or anywhere else where it just says "may be up to the full amount." My lawyer is shocked that SMART is able to get away with not having to provide terms on how to repay the debt and given the large amounts considers this something that could cause SMART a lot of headaches in the future if any legal action were to be taken. For a major part of a contract to not stipulate the repayment terms is grounds for an easy lawsuit if repayment is deemed unreasonable. So, I encourage anyone who has left, or thinking of leaving, to acquire some legal advice and be prepared if SMART asks for the repayment in an unreasonable time frame. Contract law is written such as to give neither side an advantage and take the most logical interpretation. I imagine the reason it is taking SMART a long time to come up with a plan for repayment is they are trying to figure out the legal ramifications of what they want to do and given the fact that they did not spell out the repayment terms correctly are trying to go about it in a manner that won't cause them legal problems.

Let me just be clear, I am very thankful for the opportunity SMART has given me and have no problems paying back a prorated amount based off my time remaining. That is the right thing to do per the rules of my contract and I would expect nothing less, as should everyone else: you got a free education the government wants its share now. My issue (as stated above) is how SMART has gone about trying to collect repayment without providing any information to the SMART Scholars. I am very grateful for Larry taking the time to talk to us on this forum and wish more personnel in SMART would be willing to discuss freely with SMART scholars. However, as I have learned in my tenure with the DoD the government rarely does anything logical and even more rarely moves quickly on something.

Hope this information helps. If anyone has left and received a repayment notice I would really like to know the terms of the repayment.

Thanks,
G.
Guest9876543210
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby LeftEarly9876543210 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:57 pm

Guest9876543210 --

I left the program even before starting Phase 2...have heard nothing about repayment yet (many years later). As Larry and others have discussed, SMART and/or the DoD folks are still sorting out how to handle things and to get the infrastructure in place. I would be surprised if they send out bills before 2015.

It is sort of baffling how a program started in 2007(?) has still not work out a procedure for this. Really, all they basically had to do was look at how the ROTC program works, and copy (mostly) everything, replacing "military service" for "federal civilian service in the DoD". Same rules apply there -- if you leave early, you owe the government some prorated amount for your college expenses.

I'm glad to hear they recently changed management in the program. Let's hope the new leaders (like Larry) bring more logic and reason to the process. Clear and quick communication would also be helpful ;o)
LeftEarly9876543210
 

Re: Leaving SF early in phase 2

Postby Larry » Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:38 pm

larry wrote:I just pulled the thread at the SMART Program Office.

Makes my head hurt. I'll get you an update later today.

Larry


Hi Ed,

You should be getting a letter shortly.

thank you for your patience and your future service,
Larry
Larry
 

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