Leaving SF for different DoD Job

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients
phase2scholar

Leaving SF for different DoD Job

Post by phase2scholar »

Has anyone in Phase 2 successfully left their SF before the end of their commitment by applying to different jobs (through USAJOBS) in the Department of Defense and not get slapped with debt from SMART?

I was reading 10 U.S. Code § 2192a, which authorizes the SMART program, and it basically states that you have to refund the government if you end your employment with the Department.

The scholar handbook also states : "Service Repayment: In exercising discretion under Title 10 U.S.C. 2192a(e) to determine an appropriate amount for a monetary refund, the DoD Component may reduce or eliminate a refund if, at the time of debt establishment, the scholar is currently a DoD employee and performs an obligated service commensurate with the years of scholarship or educational benefits provided."

So, any success stories out there?

Sisyphus
Posts: 74
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm
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Re: Leaving SF for different DoD Job

Post by Sisyphus »

Unless SMART has explicitly given their blessing for you to leave your SF (which typically requires your SF to go to them and go "they are not a good fit here that's on us not on the participant wanting something better [i.e. NOT you being an uppity ungrateful serf]" AND has explicitly blessed where you are going, you are breaking your contract and SMART will come after you.

SMART could not give a single quantum of fuck if you literally went right next door/down the road to a sister agency in the same branch that sponsored you or fled the country to go work for an enemy foreign power - they view it with the exact same level of contempt and will (attempt to) hold you financially liable for leaving sooner or later.

The only possible exceptions would be if you had so little time left on your ticket that even their vindictive preferences didn't outweigh the cost/benefit of actually siccing someone on you.

People have only gotten out of their debt through disputes where either SMART failed to reassign them, their SF was a toxic work environment, or similar such "SMART/SF is grossly (and often disgustingly) at fault" scenarios. You just deciding to go work someplace better suited to you will not qualify.

orange2themax

Re: Leaving SF for different DoD Job

Post by orange2themax »

Tl;dr - Get your supervisor/ SF on board, find a new job at a different SF, submit a SAAR, and pray.

So I am currently in a similar situation. I'm one year into my 3 year commitment and am actively looking for a new SF since I have never had plans to stay at my current SF long term.
SMART could not give a single quantum of fuck if you literally went right next door/down the road to a sister agency in the same branch that sponsored you or fled the country to go work for an enemy foreign power...
I fully agree that in the grand scheme of things, SMART gives zero shits about where we end up, so long as they do not have to do any paperwork or accounting on their end. This being said, the second half of this, I have found to be false.

Over the last 6 months, I've been slowly figuring out what exactly it takes in order to leave your SF without having to pay SMART back and have actually gotten concrete steps in order to make this happen:
  • First, reach out to your supervisor and/or SF Smart coordinator and express your intent. I will admit that this part is a little scary since you never know how they'll react, but it is important to first have some degree of support for your transfer from your SF. Support from both your old and prospective new SF is required for the transfer to be approved.
  • Time to start looking for a new SF. This part is somewhat open ended, as there are a LOT of SF's out there (look at the SMART website). To my understanding, staying within the branch you started in significantly improves your likelihood of transfer, something about how the money is received/allotted for the program. Although there may be other DOD/ service branch locations in an area, SMART will likely treat a transfer to a non-SMART Sponsoring SF as a breach of contract and begin the steps for debt collection.
  • Start applying for jobs at the new SF. In order to continue the transfer process, you have to actually have a tentative offer from the new facility.
I haven't made it to the next few steps and I'm not 100% sure the order, but here they are for reference:
  • Provide the tentative offer to your SMART Program coordinator.
  • Submit a Service Agreement Amendment Request (SAAR) to the SMART Scholar Portal.
  • Provide a "Signed Signed personal statement detailing the circumstances of the request, including confirmation that all other aspects of the award will not change." (This is listed at the bottom of the SAAR form)
  • SMART SHOULD reach out to the new/old SMART SF coordinators to receive letters of support from both facilities.
After all of this has come together, SMART is supposed to look at each case individually and determine if they approve, and go from there. It is super shitty to have to go through all of these steps, only to have the transfer get blocked, but if you truly want to move, I think it's worth it to try. Worse case scenario, you finish out your commitment like you were originally planning.


Hope this helps.

Sisyphus
Posts: 74
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm
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Re: Leaving SF for different DoD Job

Post by Sisyphus »

Yes, if you want to attempt to switch SF's that strategy is probably about the best you can do to try, but a couple things to note:

- Unless this has changed, it is still the SF itself that funds each candidate from their own pool of money. That is why it is generally "SF or bust" for service. The caveat you bring up of being in service/branch is that it WOULD be easier, IF all the relevant parties in the bureaucracy were inclined, for the relevant monies to be moved around. But I generally deem this as a second order possibility that isn't worth bringing up in general discussion.

- SMART has over the years taken an ever dimmer view of participants who actively hunt to switch SF. If they get wind of it and/or think that you're trying to 'jilt' your SF against their wishes at all, expect retaliation in the form of them just going "transfer declined" as they also have their own authority on the matter. Trying to get your SF to let you go AND trying to shop yourself around are both far from risk free steps.

- Generally speaking there are VERY few successful transfer stories, and a lot of them are more along the lines of utterly abusive original SF environment, a total mismatch that even the SF realizes, and/or budgets change and they just can't hire you on/support you going forward. Anything else is a statistical gift for the participant involved.

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