SMART Payback Email

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest » Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:11 am

(I was a recruitment scholar)
Before I withdrew from the program I confirmed with my cohort administrator what would be used for the repayment calculation (before they switched websites I was able to download a complete list of all the money they paid me while I was in school). This was probably the most confusing part as they never gave me an actual amount, just a "# Days Worked/Total Days of Service Commitment" statement. This repayment was also clearly defined in my Service Agreement (I've seen statements that indicate this might have changed in later versions of the agreement and I KNOW they liked to change parts of the "handbook" but my agreement also clearly indicated that it was the only enforceable contract), so I knew when I entered the program that if I left early I would have to repay a pro-rated amount based on how long I fulfilled my service commitment (on ALL expenditures they made on my behalf, not just a subset).

I'm sorry if you're in a different position, but I'm going to pay it off (all at once, I don't need this hanging out there for 10 years). For what it's worth, I honestly had a fantastic experience in the program, I was able to go to a school where a large majority of my classmates had to take on considerable debt, I had truly great mentors during both my internships and my full-time position, and the work I completed helped me get my (now current) dream job. Paying it off is what I agreed to in the beginning and I made the decision to leave the program early to make sure I didn't miss out on a career advancement.

I don't feel comfortable uploading a screenshot of the letter, but on one side it has the DFAS letterhead with the boilerplate statements regarding "You owe money, call these numbers with questions, etc etc etc" and on the other it has the specifics including:
- The amount
- Interest rate (mine says 1.000%)
- Installment amount (if you're going to pay the minimum)
- "Debt Reason(s) or Remark(s)"
This is the part where it lists "SMART SCHOLARSHIP" (and that's it, no calculations, no explanations, just one big almost-completely-empty box)

There are also the addresses (physical/web) for where to pay. And just for timing, I received the letter 4 days after the billing date so I effectively lost those days from the 30 (which is pretty awful as I have no other way of knowing specifically how much I owe and who to pay as the cohort admin didn't have that information - if this got lost in the mail I honestly don't know what I'd do).

(Sorry for the long reply)
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby worriedarmy » Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:24 pm

2010 Cohort here with 2 year service committment.

I have not received an email, but a letter was sent to my parents house from the Assistant Secretary of the Army.

Joined my SF in 2012, left about 12 months later due to the furlough (read: 20% pay cut). I was able to rejoin my SF (same cubicle as well!) approximately 1-1/2 years later.

Anyone else in a similar boat?
worriedarmy
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:46 pm

worriedarmy wrote:2010 Cohort here with 2 year service committment.

I have not received an email, but a letter was sent to my parents house from the Assistant Secretary of the Army.

Joined my SF in 2012, left about 12 months later due to the furlough (read: 20% pay cut). I was able to rejoin my SF (same cubicle as well!) approximately 1-1/2 years later.

Anyone else in a similar boat?


I'd have to brush up on my ancient handbook, but the wording made it sound like we owed time to the government, not necessarily to the sponsor in the specific role at that specific time. You might have a legitimate case to say you put in your time.
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:41 pm

I was told by the previous government program director that we won't have trouble with SMART as long as we draw a DoD paycheck.
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby guest0987 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:52 pm

I am a recipient from 2009 and started work 2013. I worked for 1 year and 6 months before leaving due to sequester, no non-essential travel (ability to learn given my SF location), furlough, working on non-major related work, transfer request being denied, and a few other things.

I received a letter in the mail today stating, I owe a prorated amount. I will be calling the contact number tomorrow morning inquiring about repayment.

I am looking for an attorney so if anyone has anyone in mind, please let us know.

I will be forwarding my story to the hotmail address above.
guest0987
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:11 pm

Yep guys here come the letters. Official DFAS bills.

I just got mine. It does look to be prorated, which I'm thankful for, but no explanation on how they did it. I fulfilled about 30% of my contract time and they took off about 30% or so off the entire bill.

However, I feel I might have an argument to further proration. I paid around 20% taxes on the stipends I received. I'd also argue that the intern support payments (of which I also paid taxes on), or a portion of it, should be not included (but yes, I know, that's not what the contract say). I was also forced to quit my day job while taking the scholarship stipend by SMART so I lost my additional income stream.

I also left due to incompetence of my SF. I sat in a cubical by myself for 6 weeks with nothing to do. They couldn't figure out how to get me a laptop. When I did get a laptop, was not given meaningful work and nothing related to what I studied in college. I left for a DoD contractor. I do much more meaningful work now, work that impacts the DoD much more directly than I would have with my SF.

Anyone going to try to make any of these points to DFAS, a lawyer, or anyone? It looks like DFAS has an official "Debt Protest" ticket submission. Anyone going to try that?
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest1010 » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:48 pm

Are any of those that received bills retention scholars?
Guest1010
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby Guest Guest » Fri Apr 20, 2018 8:42 am

For those who received bills, what year did you leave SMART? Where you a retention or recruitment? If you received SMART money prior to 2013 did they reduce the amount owed to account for the taxes you paid but are no longer able to amend your return for those years and get the money back? Is the prorated amount off the entire amount distributed or did they exclude some amounts (i.e. health insurance, book money, etc).

Guess the day we thought would never come has arrived....
Guest Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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
guest0987
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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...
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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
guest613
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
fuuuuu
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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!
2Gueat2
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
Guest
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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?
PabloEscobar
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
nobody123
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
Sisyphus
 
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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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
Mystery123
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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!
Geosc956
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu May 03, 2018 8:50 am

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
NoNegotations
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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-
DisillusionedScholar
 
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Joined: Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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
FaceTheFacts
 

Re: SMART Payback Email

Postby 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.
seanymou
 

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