Looking for any insight regarding NROTC disenrollment debt

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by rcsn2001, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. rcsn2001

    rcsn2001 New Member

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    Hello all,

    I recently found this site, and I wish I would have found it sooner. I am in a fairly unique situation (at least that's what everyone at DFAS has told me) and I am looking for any viable advice regarding my next move.

    I was awarded an NROTC Scholarship my senior year of high school and begun my education at Texas A&M in the fall of 2004. In the spring of my Sophomore year I applied for a change to a Marine option contract, which was awarded that summer while I was on my 2nd Class Summer Training. Between Junior and Senior years, I attended OCS and graduated in the top quarter. I was always a much better Midshipman than I was a student, and I was separated due to poor academic performance. At my review board, I was asked if I was going to pay it back or enlist, and I told them my plan was to enlist as ithout the scholarship, I could no longer afford to continue school at that time.

    After I withdrew from school, I was in constant communication with our NROTC department, and was told that I did not necessarily have to enlist in the Marines, so I began looking in to the other branches. After talking to recruiters at all of them, I saw that the National Guard would honestly give me the best benefits, as it would allow me to come back to school at a much earlier time, and hopefully finish my degree quicker. And I enlisted as a Combat Engineer, thinking that throughout my 6 year enlistment I was bound to deploy at least once. When asked, the NG recruiter told me he was sure that NG service would count towards the "enlisting in lieu of repayment". When I notified the NROTC department of my decision, they didn't say anything other than that they wished me the best. I honestly think they didn't even think about the fact that I was enlisting in the guard. I did ask them how the situation would be handled regarding the debt, and they said that in the next 18-36 months I should get a bill from DFAS, and then I could get the paperwork started to validate my enlistment.

    After a couple of years I hadn't heard anything so I called the NROTC dept back and they said it probably just hadn't come in yet, just to wait a bit longer. A former classmate of mine had just gotten his bill, but he was separated about a year before I was, so it made sense. During this time I also returned to Texas A&M (I completed my re-admission application while I was at AIT) and successfully completed my degree.

    A couple years later, same call, same answer.

    Fast forward to June of 2015. I got a notification from Credit Karma that a new debt had showed up on my credit report, and it was a ~$45,000 debt to DFAS. I called DFAS and found out that it was my ROTC debt, but I found my separation paperwork and it listed a total of only around $30,000, so I asked what the difference was. Turns out, they initially "sent" me the bill in June of 2010 (about 6 months after I had enlisted). The gave me the address, and sure enough, it was my moms address from my sophomore year. She moved my junior year, and I thought that I had updated all my records but I guess I missed one. Either way, according to the DFAS rep, they sent one letter a month to that address for 5 years, with no reply. All the while my balance was collecting late fees and interest. All this time I was enlisted in the Guard, so DFAS had my current address, but supposedly they were in different systems.

    Luckily, DFAS realized this was not normal, and the rep I was talking to even said that normally they only send bills for 3 months before submitting it to collections, whereas mine had gone on for 5 years. Through their appeals process, I was able to get them to remove almost all of the fees, and it dropped my balance back to much closer the original value. This was finally resolved a few months after my notification, and I had been making payments the whole time, to try and stay on good terms with them.

    Now, some of you may have caught on to the fact that I enlisted in the National Guard, which I came to find out is not a valid branch to enlist in in lieu of repayment. It was the DFAS rep who informed me of this. Ironically, I had that conversation while on my way to drill. I asked her if there was any recourse I had, and she recommended I contact my NROTC department. I called them and they recommended I contact the Chief of Naval Operation and Training. When I contacted them, no one had heard of a situation similar to mine before but said that I could fill out and submit a DD 149 (Official Change of Record).

    I am currently in the middle of doing this, but I wanted to ask this board if they knew of any other options that I could pursue to get my debt (even partially) forgiven.

    Looking back, I know that I screwed up. Not only did I let my grades falter, but I didn't research my decision thoroughly enough, and I got my own self into this mess. However, I feel that I was acting in good faith based on the information that was relayed to me, and I want to pursue all my options.

    Thank you in advance for any assistance that y'all may be able to give.
     
  2. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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    Wow, what a journey! While I do feel bad for your situation, I am glad that you acknowledge that much of it is self directed.

    The only suggestion I might offer is to make an inquiry to your congressman and explain what happened. Perhaps he or she can help move your DD 149 along more briskly.

    Good luck to you.
     
  3. k2rider

    k2rider Member

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    Don't be so hard on yourself. Based on what you have written, you had no INTENT to dodge repaying your debt or enlisting. As a matter of fact, you DID actually enlist. You're just finding out 10 years later that it was an improper route. In my opinion, not only have you repaid your obligation but if the Navy really wanted to find you, they could have made a more sincere effort. It's not like you were on the run or hiding, you were actively participating in the National Guard.

    However, in the end it all comes down to INTENT and if FBI Director James Comey found that Hillary Clinton had no intent involving her ongoing email scandal, surely he will also find the same for you. Maybe you should contact him. ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2016
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  4. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt Member

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    This is a case for your elected official (Congressman) and/ or a lawyer. You are in a catch 22 with too many different branches all scratching their heads.
     
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  5. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    My suggestion is to find a military attorney. Many military attorney's were once upon a time in the military. These lawyers understand the different regulations.
     
  6. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    ....Thank you in advance for any assistance that y'all may be able to give.[/QUOTE]


    I am not endorsing or recommending the former JAG at link below, but this is the type of law practice that handles issues like this. You can find them by googling strings such as "military law ROTC disenrollment JAG" + your state.

    http://www.domeklaw.com/

    If you write your elected representative, lay out all the facts, chronology, documentation, points of contact, your clear intent to discharge your obligation by enlistment. The rep's office will tasks its military legislative affairs staffer to run it all down. I have been on the receiving end of these, and these Congressional inquiries float right down from the Service Secretary's staff with great visibility. Most helpful when multiple govt entities are involved. My layman's hope is that the case gets made you indeed enlisted and served to discharge your debt, and failures on the Govt's part to properly inform you should not make you liable, and an exception should be made. Let's assume it is, and down the road, don't forget to bird dog your credit history to ensure it gets cleared up at www.annualcreditreport.com

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.
     
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  7. rcsn2001

    rcsn2001 New Member

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    Thank you to everyone for your advice. I had considered a lawyer, but now I will definitely be pursuing that option.

    I will update the thread with any new information as I go.
     
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