Leaving program early

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Leaving program early

Postby toughdecision » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:01 am

I was wondering if there was any update on people leaving the program before finishing their Phase 2 commitment? I have seen the earlier posts stating that no one had been contacted for repayment yet, but is this still the case? Any new information regarding a program in place for repayment?

I am not happy at my SF and am looking to get out. I expect to have to pay, but when repayment would be necessary helps to determine my decision.

Any insight would be helpful! Thanks in advance for your time.
toughdecision
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby hmmmm » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:19 pm

I would take into consideration the length of your current contract, which is on you SF-50, and your time currently served. As time goes on, it become more likely that in a year or two new excepted service hired employees will be RIF'd or won't be competitively converted. Alternatively look at the T&C's of the contract your signed. My contract states that I would not have to repay if I voluntarily obtain employment at another federal agency. Note, it does not says DoD agency.
hmmmm
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby Guest » Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:39 am

hmmmm wrote:Alternatively look at the T&C's of the contract your signed. My contract states that I would not have to repay if I voluntarily obtain employment at another federal agency. Note, it does not says DoD agency.


Are you talking about the contract you signed with SMART? If so, what cohort?
Guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby hmmmmmm » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:38 pm

7. Reimbursement
1. A participant who fails to....
2. However, students completing the program will not be required to reimburse the federal government if:
.A DoD position or....
.The participant leaves the agency voluntarily to enter into service of another federal agency; or
. The Secretary....

Ask the scholarship for a copy of the contract you signed if you want to know your T&Cs.
hmmmmmm
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest22222 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:17 pm

Thinking of leaving after finishing degree in December. Smart has given me $250,000. So a lot of debt. Has anyone left right after the degree. I see a lot about leaving during Phase 2. Does anyone actually think they will require payback?
guest22222
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby RF_EE » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:29 pm

guest22222 wrote:Thinking of leaving after finishing degree in December. Smart has given me $250,000. So a lot of debt. Has anyone left right after the degree. I see a lot about leaving during Phase 2. Does anyone actually think they will require payback?


My best guess is that, especially with the shortages of money in the federal government, they're more likely to require payback now than they did in the past. Especially if you want to leave immediately after finishing your degree, and before starting Phase 2.
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Re: Leaving program early

Postby CMMMM » Sun Oct 27, 2013 12:21 pm

Re ^^^:
Or you can consider the dysfunctional nature of the SMART program and the gov as a whole and figure you won't be required to payback. The SMART program clearly doesn't have a payback process in place, and I would be very surprised if they formulated one anytime soon. Given the monetary issues in the gov, I think it more likely the SMART program gets abruptly axed, which would be good news for some of us, meanwhile screwing others (i.e., Phase 1 recipients). I can't imagine the post-commitment retention rate being what the program envisioned, so at some point either the program will be revamped or ended.
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Re: Leaving program early

Postby Larry_52 » Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:48 pm

I would never advise someone to deliberately put themselves at risk of owning the Federal Government $$. At some point, somewhere, somehow, Uncle Sam will come after you. Just because it's a big, faceless bureaucracy that takes a long time to do anything, doesn't mean it won't eventually catch up with you. $250K is a home loan. I don't think you want to shoulder a second home loan for short term gain.

YMMV
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Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Sun Nov 01, 2015 10:51 am

Larry_52 wrote:I would never advise someone to deliberately put themselves at risk of owning the Federal Government $$. At some point, somewhere, somehow, Uncle Sam will come after you. Just because it's a big, faceless bureaucracy that takes a long time to do anything, doesn't mean it won't eventually catch up with you. $250K is a home loan. I don't think you want to shoulder a second home loan for short term gain.

YMMV


Any update on this, now that its two years old?
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby LefttheAF » Mon Nov 02, 2015 10:48 am

guest wrote:
Larry_52 wrote:I would never advise someone to deliberately put themselves at risk of owning the Federal Government $$. At some point, somewhere, somehow, Uncle Sam will come after you. Just because it's a big, faceless bureaucracy that takes a long time to do anything, doesn't mean it won't eventually catch up with you. $250K is a home loan. I don't think you want to shoulder a second home loan for short term gain.

YMMV


Any update on this, now that its two years old?


I have not heard anything from SMART about owing anything, I have been out for a few months. I have not heard of anyone else being asked to pay back anything yet.
LefttheAF
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby administrator » Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:06 pm

Nope. There is a back pay post a couple of threads under this one. Same topic, same info.
administrator
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Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Mon Nov 02, 2015 10:48 pm

LefttheAF wrote:
guest wrote:
Larry_52 wrote:I would never advise someone to deliberately put themselves at risk of owning the Federal Government $$. At some point, somewhere, somehow, Uncle Sam will come after you. Just because it's a big, faceless bureaucracy that takes a long time to do anything, doesn't mean it won't eventually catch up with you. $250K is a home loan. I don't think you want to shoulder a second home loan for short term gain.

YMMV


Any update on this, now that its two years old?


I have not heard anything from SMART about owing anything, I have been out for a few months. I have not heard of anyone else being asked to pay back anything yet.


LefttheAF, can you please share your experience with us? What is it like to quit? Did you try to determine the terms of repayment before quitting? What do you aticipate will happen next, if anything? Thanks!
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby LefttheAF » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:51 pm

guest wrote:
LefttheAF wrote:I have not heard anything from SMART about owing anything, I have been out for a few months. I have not heard of anyone else being asked to pay back anything yet.


LefttheAF, can you please share your experience with us? What is it like to quit? Did you try to determine the terms of repayment before quitting? What do you aticipate will happen next, if anything? Thanks!


Of course! Quitting was a magical thing, I went to a real company and do actual work and I get paid reasonable wages. I just filled out some paperwork and I let the SPO know, I filled out the super general form where leaving early is an option on the form, but not the point of the whole form, as that one said I would owe an appropriate amount. The other one just said I would owe everything back, so I did not sign that.

I did try to figure out how to pay everything back but the AF liaison had none of that information for me. Neither did my SPO contact, or anyone at my base. No one knows what the terms are as far as I know.

If something is done and we do owe the money, it will go through DFAS I think, and they limit collections to 15% of post-tax pay, so that should make the payments take a long time, but they wont be an unreasonable amount, especially given i am making almost double what I made with the AF. This is theory based on a few things I have read, and some stuff I looked up about DFAS, so not a guarantee, but it would be the logical progression.

I quit because it made sense for me, and I will happily pay back a pro-rated amount. You need to figure out what is right for you and go for it!
LefttheAF
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby Guest » Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:01 pm

LefttheAF wrote:
guest wrote:
LefttheAF wrote:I have not heard anything from SMART about owing anything, I have been out for a few months. I have not heard of anyone else being asked to pay back anything yet.


LefttheAF, can you please share your experience with us? What is it like to quit? Did you try to determine the terms of repayment before quitting? What do you aticipate will happen next, if anything? Thanks!


Of course! Quitting was a magical thing, I went to a real company and do actual work and I get paid reasonable wages. I just filled out some paperwork and I let the SPO know, I filled out the super general form where leaving early is an option on the form, but not the point of the whole form, as that one said I would owe an appropriate amount. The other one just said I would owe everything back, so I did not sign that.

I did try to figure out how to pay everything back but the AF liaison had none of that information for me. Neither did my SPO contact, or anyone at my base. No one knows what the terms are as far as I know.

If something is done and we do owe the money, it will go through DFAS I think, and they limit collections to 15% of post-tax pay, so that should make the payments take a long time, but they wont be an unreasonable amount, especially given i am making almost double what I made with the AF. This is theory based on a few things I have read, and some stuff I looked up about DFAS, so not a guarantee, but it would be the logical progression.

I quit because it made sense for me, and I will happily pay back a pro-rated amount. You need to figure out what is right for you and go for it!


Thanks for the reply! Pardon my ignorance, but why did you sign the withdrawal form at all? I mean, if they don't even give us the repayment conditions then how can we be expected to agree to them? What insentive is there for us to sign the withdrawal form?
Guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby LefttheAF » Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:59 pm

Guest wrote:Thanks for the reply! Pardon my ignorance, but why did you sign the withdrawal form at all? I mean, if they don't even give us the repayment conditions then how can we be expected to agree to them? What insentive is there for us to sign the withdrawal form?


Mostly because if they want their money back, they will find out either way. And I figure if they do require payback, its much easier to be all settled in terms of documents and such, and what I owe will really be what I owe.

There won't need to be a fight about when I left and I can show I signed the form that says I will pay back an appropriate amount, rather than have them saying I broke the terms of the contract and demanding it all back. So it's not that there are conditions, more just the fact that there is something that says something about what I owe
LefttheAF
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:32 pm

LefttheAF wrote:
Guest wrote:Thanks for the reply! Pardon my ignorance, but why did you sign the withdrawal form at all? I mean, if they don't even give us the repayment conditions then how can we be expected to agree to them? What insentive is there for us to sign the withdrawal form?


Mostly because if they want their money back, they will find out either way. And I figure if they do require payback, its much easier to be all settled in terms of documents and such, and what I owe will really be what I owe.

There won't need to be a fight about when I left and I can show I signed the form that says I will pay back an appropriate amount, rather than have them saying I broke the terms of the contract and demanding it all back. So it's not that there are conditions, more just the fact that there is something that says something about what I owe


Got it, makes sense. Can you point me to where I can find the 2011 form? Also, do you think there's going to be any difference whether we are retention or recruitment? Thanks again, strength through solidarity! :)
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:42 pm

LefttheAF wrote:
Guest wrote:Thanks for the reply! Pardon my ignorance, but why did you sign the withdrawal form at all? I mean, if they don't even give us the repayment conditions then how can we be expected to agree to them? What insentive is there for us to sign the withdrawal form?


Mostly because if they want their money back, they will find out either way. And I figure if they do require payback, its much easier to be all settled in terms of documents and such, and what I owe will really be what I owe.

There won't need to be a fight about when I left and I can show I signed the form that says I will pay back an appropriate amount, rather than have them saying I broke the terms of the contract and demanding it all back. So it's not that there are conditions, more just the fact that there is something that says something about what I owe

Also, have you spoken to a lawyer? I'm considering it.
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby LefttheAF » Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:17 pm

guest wrote:Got it, makes sense. Can you point me to where I can find the 2011 form? Also, do you think there's going to be any difference whether we are retention or recruitment? Thanks again, strength through solidarity! :)


I got the current version of the form from the SMART website, i just used the one that was for any and all changes and selected withdrawal as my option.

Retention and recruitment will definitely have differences, i think retention were considered to be working while at school, so they may not be able to demand their salary back, but the money paid for tuition will definitely be part of the repayment. All assumptions on my part of course.

I am considering talking to a lawyer and definitely will once the repayment requests go out. Another thread talked about writing the Inspector General, if I knew what to write I think I would send something there

Strength through solidarity!
LefttheAF
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:45 pm

LefttheAF wrote:
guest wrote:Got it, makes sense. Can you point me to where I can find the 2011 form? Also, do you think there's going to be any difference whether we are retention or recruitment? Thanks again, strength through solidarity! :)


I got the current version of the form from the SMART website, i just used the one that was for any and all changes and selected withdrawal as my option.

Retention and recruitment will definitely have differences, i think retention were considered to be working while at school, so they may not be able to demand their salary back, but the money paid for tuition will definitely be part of the repayment. All assumptions on my part of course.

I am considering talking to a lawyer and definitely will once the repayment requests go out. Another thread talked about writing the Inspector General, if I knew what to write I think I would send something there

Strength through solidarity!


No, I'm pretty sure retention participants have the same commitment obligation. At least according to the SMART regulations, not sure about they actual legality of it...
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:39 pm

Is anyone aware of any prior situations (i.e. Outside of SMART) where federal employees were asked to refund anything (e.g. Education costs) back to the government? I know that DoD labs have a history of funding education for their employees and previous programs came with similar service commitment obligations. If employees did have to repay anything, what were the conditions and amounts involved? I'm really having a hard
time believing that DFAS has ever handled individual debts over $100K.
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby Guest » Wed Dec 02, 2015 9:21 am

guest wrote:Is anyone aware of any prior situations (i.e. Outside of SMART) where federal employees were asked to refund anything (e.g. Education costs) back to the government? I know that DoD labs have a history of funding education for their employees and previous programs came with similar service commitment obligations. If employees did have to repay anything, what were the conditions and amounts involved? I'm really having a hard
time believing that DFAS has ever handled individual debts over $100K.


When I quit, I also was in the middle of another service commitment. I was contacted by DFAS a few months after I left. The debt amount was $5000. NBD. I'm in the middle of a waiver request now. The debt letter that I initially received said that the minimum monthly payment would be $150. I submitted a financial hardship application and had that lowered to $50/month. I make $75k a year so I'm pretty sure they don't have the most stringent requirements for financial hardship. I just had to submit paperwork with all of my expenses.

My SMART payback is somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-45k (if they pro-rate). There are certain procedures that they have to follow when they go to collect. The woman I spoke with at DFAS told me that as long as I don't just ignore the debt, this isn't going to affect my credit. They can't make you pay something that's unreasonable. These procedures are outlined in the following document (from an earlier post):

Volume 5,
Chapter 28 of DoD 7000.14-R

It's a lot of documentation, but it does let you know what your options are for repaying a debt to the government, challenging a debt, negotiating a lower repayment based on income, health, etc. That type of thing. It's worth the read. Personally, I felt somewhat better after I read it. However, it doesn't give you anything concrete.

Also, they refered to this document when I withdrew:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/2192a


good luck.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby guest » Wed Dec 02, 2015 10:26 am

Guest wrote:
guest wrote:Is anyone aware of any prior situations (i.e. Outside of SMART) where federal employees were asked to refund anything (e.g. Education costs) back to the government? I know that DoD labs have a history of funding education for their employees and previous programs came with similar service commitment obligations. If employees did have to repay anything, what were the conditions and amounts involved? I'm really having a hard
time believing that DFAS has ever handled individual debts over $100K.


When I quit, I also was in the middle of another service commitment. I was contacted by DFAS a few months after I left. The debt amount was $5000. NBD. I'm in the middle of a waiver request now. The debt letter that I initially received said that the minimum monthly payment would be $150. I submitted a financial hardship application and had that lowered to $50/month. I make $75k a year so I'm pretty sure they don't have the most stringent requirements for financial hardship. I just had to submit paperwork with all of my expenses.

My SMART payback is somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-45k (if they pro-rate). There are certain procedures that they have to follow when they go to collect. The woman I spoke with at DFAS told me that as long as I don't just ignore the debt, this isn't going to affect my credit. They can't make you pay something that's unreasonable. These procedures are outlined in the following document (from an earlier post):

Volume 5,
Chapter 28 of DoD 7000.14-R

It's a lot of documentation, but it does let you know what your options are for repaying a debt to the government, challenging a debt, negotiating a lower repayment based on income, health, etc. That type of thing. It's worth the read. Personally, I felt somewhat better after I read it. However, it doesn't give you anything concrete.

Also, they refered to this document when I withdrew:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/2192a


good luck.


Is the repayment connected your SMART agreement or your other service commitment? If it's SMART then that makes you the first person on this forum to begin repayment as for as I know. Nevertheless, it's good to hear that the repayment procedures are reasonable. However many of us here have upwards of 10x your debt :) Is 35K what you really owed the SMART program or did they reduce your debt? Thanks for sharing!
guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby Guest » Wed Dec 02, 2015 10:46 am

guest wrote:Is the repayment connected your SMART agreement or your other service commitment? If it's SMART then that makes you the first person on this forum to begin repayment as for as I know. Nevertheless, it's good to hear that the repayment procedures are reasonable. However many of us here have upwards of 10x your debt :) Is 35K what you really owed the SMART program or did they reduce your debt? Thanks for sharing!


The $5000 debt is related to a different signing bonus that I took, so it's not a part of the SMART program. However, I don't have any reason to believe that the collection methods will be different. Especially since the handbook refers to Chapter 28 of DoD 7000 blah blah blah.

My original SMART award amount (from the ASEE website) was $90k. I served about half of my commitment. The reason I say "around 35-45" is because $15,000 of that debt was from internship support, and we're not entirely sure if they're going to make that part of the repayment yet. If they don't expect internship support to be paid back, and they pro-rate the repayment amount, I'll owe around $35k. Else I'll owe around $45k. Of course, if they really decide to screw us over (wouldn't surprise me in the least) they'll come after me for $90k. If that happens, I'll be discussing this with a lawyer.
Guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby Guest » Wed Dec 02, 2015 6:16 pm

Guest wrote:
guest wrote:Is the repayment connected your SMART agreement or your other service commitment? If it's SMART then that makes you the first person on this forum to begin repayment as for as I know. Nevertheless, it's good to hear that the repayment procedures are reasonable. However many of us here have upwards of 10x your debt :) Is 35K what you really owed the SMART program or did they reduce your debt? Thanks for sharing!


The $5000 debt is related to a different signing bonus that I took, so it's not a part of the SMART program. However, I don't have any reason to believe that the collection methods will be different. Especially since the handbook refers to Chapter 28 of DoD 7000 blah blah blah.

My original SMART award amount (from the ASEE website) was $90k. I served about half of my commitment. The reason I say "around 35-45" is because $15,000 of that debt was from internship support, and we're not entirely sure if they're going to make that part of the repayment yet. If they don't expect internship support to be paid back, and they pro-rate the repayment amount, I'll owe around $35k. Else I'll owe around $45k. Of course, if they really decide to screw us over (wouldn't surprise me in the least) they'll come after me for $90k. If that happens, I'll be discussing this with a lawyer.


Your bonus was an overpayment situation. DFAS routinely collects overpayments that may have occurred for various reasons (e.g. You were paid while on leave, or paid at a rate above your grade). In these cases money was actually transferred to you that wasn't supposed have been. The SMART scholarship is a different beast, especially for retention scholars who continued to recover their normal salary. I imagine that it would require an emense amount of authority to demand repayment of salary in a position that was continuously held. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but DFAS does not simply enter a debt amount to collect, especially if they see that you were getting paid the right amount. There are so called "education debts", usually associated with military members (health professional program, for example) but I'm not aware of any existing precedent for civilians. Can anyone add to this?
Guest
 

Re: Leaving program early

Postby Guest » Thu Dec 03, 2015 11:27 am

Guest wrote:
Your bonus was an overpayment situation. DFAS routinely collects overpayments that may have occurred for various reasons (e.g. You were paid while on leave, or paid at a rate above your grade). In these cases money was actually transferred to you that wasn't supposed have been. The SMART scholarship is a different beast, especially for retention scholars who continued to recover their normal salary. I imagine that it would require an emense amount of authority to demand repayment of salary in a position that was continuously held. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but DFAS does not simply enter a debt amount to collect, especially if they see that you were getting paid the right amount. There are so called "education debts", usually associated with military members (health professional program, for example) but I'm not aware of any existing precedent for civilians. Can anyone add to this?


It's true that they were collecting an overpayment for my bonus. My point was that the procedures that they used to collect that overpayment were the same ones that are outlined in the documents listed in the SMART handbook (DoD Financial Management Regulation volume 5 chapter 28, particularly section 2809 - collection and processing of out of service debts). The question that was asked was whether anyone knew of other situations where federal employees were asked to refund anything. The documentation says that DFAS has authority to approve compromises, suspend and/or terminate collection activities on debt amounts up to $100,000 so clearly there are provisions for them to handle such amounts. I don't know why the handbook would specifically call out that documentation if those are not the methods they intend to use, but of course it wouldn't be the first time there was something completely false in the handbook.
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