Frequently Asked Questions
These materials supplement the ASLRP Policy and are not intended to contain all possible relevant information. Attorneys considering requesting participation in the ASLRP should read the Policy in its entirety for full details on the Program. The links below are to general headings and are intended to help guide readers to the topic of interest - there are many questions within the general headings that are not specifically listed in the bullets below.
1. What is the attorney student loan repayment program (ASLRP)?
The ASLRP is an agency program based on 5 U.S.C. § 5379. The Department of Justice agrees to repay certain types of Federal student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for highly qualified attorneys in exchange for a service obligation of three years. To receive ASLRP, the attorney must qualify, the attorney’s student loans must qualify, and all statutory requirements must be met. Federal agencies have a large degree of discretion in structuring student loan repayment programs. The Department’s policy requires a minimum aggregate loan balance of $10,000 to initially qualify. The ASLRP is intended as a supplement to the individual attorney’s loan repayment obligations, not as a substitute therefor. The Department matches payments rendered by the individual attorney, up to a maximum of $6,000. Attorneys with annual base salaries below $84,000 automatically qualify for the maximum payment without consideration of the amount they paid. However, once an attorney’s annual base salary reaches the “matching funds” threshold of $84,000, the Department considers the amount of annual loan repayments rendered by the individual when determining the ASLRP benefit. The ASLRP contemplates that attorneys will continue making personal payments toward their federal student loans while participating in the program.
2. How and when do I request consideration?
Attorneys currently employed by the Department or those who have accepted offers of employment who have not yet entered on duty (e.g., incoming Honors Program attorneys; lateral hires) may request consideration for ASLRP using the procedures explained in the Department’s policy. An eligibility worksheet designed to assist attorneys determine whether they are eligible, and forms to be used when requesting consideration are also posted. Each attorney requesting consideration for ASLRP must submit a request, with proper documentation, through his or her component, for review and processing. A Department-level panel makes final selections. The Department makes ASLRP selections once a year, generally in the May/June time period.
3. Who should I contact for information?
Some components/offices/bureaus have identified a specific person who is responsible for managing the ASLRP. Select the “Where to Submit Your Request” link to review the list of contacts. If no specific person is identified, contact your supervisory chain for instructions.
If, after reading all published materials carefully, you still have a question, you may send your inquiry to OARM by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to list the policy provisions that you are asking about so OARM can focus its response. OARM has an extremely limited staff and cannot take time to personally brief each applicant. OARM monitors this email address from March through final distribution of payments (generally September).
4. If I am selected, what are my responsibilities?
Attorneys selected for the ASLRP must read the Policy in its entirety. Paragraph K of the policy contains a non-exclusive list of specific responsibilities. Remaining eligible for future benefits is an individual responsibility. The ASLRP requires attorneys selected for the incentive benefit to continue making payments on their qualifying federal student loans if there is a balance remaining.
5. When are payments made, and to whom?
All payments are subject to the availability of funds, as determined in the sole discretion of the Department. The Department issues one loan repayment per selected attorney each year. Historically, the Department issues renewal payments for current participants in June and issues payments for new recipients not later than September (or upon entry on duty for those arriving after September 30th). Payments are issued directly to the loan holder(s) listed in the “Request for Consideration” or “Request for Renewal of Incentive Payments” form. Attorneys with more than one loan must rank loan holders in order of payment preference.
6. Who do I contact if I have problems with my payment?
First, your ASLRP payment (the entire amount awarded) will be listed as part of your Earning and Leave statement during the pay period it is issued. Payment is sent directly from the Finance Center to your loan holder. Only the after-tax amount is issued to the loan holder. If your payment is not credited in a timely manner, please review your Earning and Leave statements to confirm that payment was issued, then contact your loan holder. If the matter is not resolved, you should contact your component’s ASLRP Point of Contact or the JMD Finance Staff for assistance in filing an inquiry with the Finance Center and/or tracking the payment.
7. Is the ASLRP payment reflected on my W-2 Form?
Yes. For tax purposes, ASLRP payments are considered income. The payment is reflected on your DOJ Earning and Leave statement in the month it is issued and is included in your annual W-2 form.
8. Why do I have to submit renewal requests once I am selected?
The annual renewal documents and associated payment history allows the Department to confirm that a payment was actually received by the loan holder, applied properly only to qualifying loans, and to monitor compliance with policy requirements. An annual review of each recipient's payment history permits recipients to take appropriate corrective action when needed to ensure continuity of payments and ensures the Department complies with statutory requirements. It also facilitates identification of recipients who fail to complete service obligations so recoupment can be initiated.
1. Who is eligible to receive attorney student loan repayment benefits?
Under the Department’s policy, any employee serving in or being hired to serve in an attorney position who has qualifying Federal student loans totaling at least $10,000, and who can execute a three-year service agreement, may request consideration. There are some attorneys who are excluded by law (e.g., political appointees) and others who, because of the type of appointment they hold, cannot meet the minimum statutory service obligation of three years. These individuals are not eligible. Attorneys may be eligible to receive loan repayment incentives unless they fall into one of the following categories:
Temporary employees who are serving on appointments leading to conversion to term or permanent appointments (e.g., new Honors Program attorneys serving on 14-month temporary appointments who were hired for permanent positions) may be eligible to receive loan repayment incentives, but are subject to repayment provisions if found unsuitable during the background investigation process or if they do not achieve permanent status (e.g., fail the bar). Regular term appointments must exceed three years (e.g., the recipient must be able to meet the minimum statutory service obligation).
2. Does every eligible attorney automatically receive ASLRP funding?
No. Available funding does not permit the Department to award ASLRP funding to all eligible attorneys. Each year, the Department selects new recipients for participating in the ASLRP, subject to availability of funds.
3. How do I use the component-specific qualifications listed in Appendix A?
Each attorney must justify ASLRP selection based on either the “high or unique qualifications relevant to DOJ employment” or the “special need of the Department.” Attorneys assigned to components that list specific qualifications may use the materials in Appendix A to assist them prepare their justification. If no component-specific qualifications are listed, then the attorney may justify ASLRP selection using the criteria listed in the instructions. The justification instructions provide comprehensive guidance for the attorney.
4. I am an Assistant US Attorney. Which “component-specific qualifications” apply to me?
AUSAs may only use qualifications designated as applicable for U.S. Attorney’s Offices. These are consolidated at the end of the listings posted in Appendix A. Please note that qualifications listed in Appendix A as belonging to the “Civil Division” or the “Criminal Division” refer to positions in the Main Justice litigating components, not part of a USAO and are not applicable to AUSAs.
5. My law school also offers student loan repayments. If I am participating in that program, can I still qualify for ASLRP?
Yes, but you can only request consideration for loans that remain outstanding and may not receive dual compensation for the same loan amount. For example, if you have existing student loans totaling $50,000, and your law school repays $10,000 on your behalf, you should advise the Department that you have only $40,000 of student loan debt. Also, it is your responsibility to prioritize the loans that you want repaid on your behalf to ensure that payments issued by the Department and your law school do not exceed the amount of existing debt. If you received loan repayments from another Federal agency, you must disclose the amount to the Department.
6. What can disqualify attorneys from the ASLRP?
a. The Department cannot authorize a loan repayment for a student loan that was previously repaid. Student loan repayments may be paid only for outstanding student loans. See 5 U.S.C. § 5379(b)(3).
b. The Department cannot agree to repay any future student loans. The Department may agree only to make payments on those student loans taken out prior to the student loan repayment agreement. See 5 U.S.C. § 5379(b)(1).
c. The Department cannot offer a student loan repayment benefit to recruit an individual from another Federal agency. The intent of the statute is to help agencies recruit individuals for Federal service, not for agencies to compete with one another for employees. Thus, the Department may not use this authority to recruit current Federal employees from other agencies. Honors Program attorneys serving as Federal judicial clerks prior to entry on duty do not fall under this prohibition.
d. The Department may not offer a student loan repayment benefit to retain an attorney likely to leave for a position in another Federal agency. The Department may not offer to repay a student loan for an attorney who is likely to leave for any position in any branch of the Federal Government. See 5 CFR § 537.105(c).
e. Attorneys who cannot serve the minimum service obligation (three years) cannot qualify for the ASLRP. Accordingly, entry-level attorneys hired for 2-year fellowships or 1-2 year clerkships are not eligible. There is a statutory requirement for a minimum 3-year service commitment. An attorney selected to receive ASLRP must agree, in writing, to remain with the Department for a period of not less than 3 years, unless involuntarily separated. See 5 U.S.C. § 5379(c)(1). Term employees must have at least 3 years left on their appointments to be eligible. See 5 CFR § 537.104(b).
f. The Department will not approve ASLRP benefits for a parent who bears a PLUS loan obligation for his son or daughter. The Department’s policy limits eligibility to loans taken out by the attorney and used to pay the attorney’s expenses (no third-party loans).
g. Attorneys who have defaulted on their student loans are not eligible for this program. The Department policy excludes attorneys in default from participation.
h. The attorney must have a minimum aggregate qualifying federal student loan debt balance of $10,000 to initially qualify for ASLRP (not applicable to renewal requests).
i. Attorneys who received less than a "fully successful" rating on the most recent performance evaluation report under Part 430 of Title 5, CFR (or equivalent level of performance under the applicable performance management system), or who engaged in misconduct or who have been subject to disciplinary action within the past three years, or are the subject of a performance or conduct based action, are subject to restrictions on their participation in the ASLRP and should review the Policy for more detailed information.
1. What types of loans qualify for the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program?
Only certain types of student loans qualify. Qualifying student loans are loans made, insured, or guaranteed under parts B, D, or E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965; or a health education assistance loan made or insured under part A of title VII of the Public Heath Service Act, or under part E of title VIII of that Act. Loan eligibility is established by statute (5 U.S.C. § 5379), regulation (5 CFR § 537.102), and Department policy (loans must have been taken out by the attorney and used to pay for costs incurred by that attorney). Qualifying loans can include:
For more information, see the ASLRP Policy, paragraph C.
2. What are examples of the loans that qualify under the student loan repayment program?
Loans made or insured under the Higher Education Act of 1965 include the following:
Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)
Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
Federal Consolidation Loans Federal Graduate PLUS Loans (Note: Federal PLUS loans taken out by a parent/guardian for a dependent student do not qualify for ASLRP)
William D. Ford Direct Loan Program (Direct Loans)
Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans
Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans
Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans
Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loans
Federal Perkins Loan Program
National Defense Student Loans (made before July 1, 1972)
National Direct Student Loans (made between July 1, 1972, and July 1, 1987)
Perkins Loans (made after July 1, 1987)
Loans made or insured under the Public Health Service Act include the following:
Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)
Primary Care Loans (PCL)
Nursing Student Loans (NSL)
Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL)
Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL)
3. Are loans that were purchased or sold by the original holder eligible for payment?
Loans purchased or sold by the original holder are eligible for payment, assuming the other conditions of the regulations are met. The requester must submit proof of the original loan’s qualifying status.
4. How does the Department deal with loans that were consolidated with a spouse’s student loans?
Attorneys who consolidate their qualifying loans with a spouse’s loans should provide documentation showing the dollar amount each party held at the time of consolidation and calculate what percentage of the new combined loan is attributable to each person. The Department will then look at the current loan balance, and, based on the percentage attributable to the attorney requesting participation, will establish that portion as the “loan balance” eligible for repayment.
1. What is the intent of the ASLRP?
The ASLRP is intended to reduce debt associated with federal student loans. It is a supplement to, not a substitute for, the individual loan repayment obligation established between attorneys and lenders. The policy requires ASLRP participants to continue making regularly scheduled personal loan repayments on their qualifying federal student loans.
Under 5 CFR § 537.103, each agency must establish a plan that designates the officials who are authorized to review and approve offers of student loan repayment benefits. The Department policy establishes a senior-level panel to administer and oversee ASLRP (hereafter the Program Administration Panel). The Program Administration Panel membership includes: the Associate Attorney General (Chair); the Director, OARM; the Director, EOUSA; the DAAG (Human Resources/Administration), JMD; the DAAG (Office of the Controller), JMD; and an AAG of one of the Department components (rotated every two years). Decisions of the Program Administration Panel on selection of beneficiaries are final and are not subject to appeal. The Panel reviews all requests for consideration and selects new attorneys each year, subject to availability of funds.
The Department has established a payment ceiling, per attorney, of up to $6,000 per calendar year, subject to a cumulative lifetime maximum of $60,000, consistent with the provisions of P.L. 108-123 (November 11, 2003). When determining the amount to repay on a recipient’s behalf, the Department will match the annual amount that the recipient pays on his or her qualifying Federal student loans (up to the maximum of $6,000 per calendar year). There is an exception for recipients whose annual base salaries are less than $84,000 – those individuals will automatically receive the annual maximum repayment amount without consideration of the amount they individually paid on their federal student loans during the preceding calendar year. Amounts paid by the Department on the attorney’s behalf through the ASLRP are not included when determining how much the attorney paid toward his or her federal student loans.
The Department retains the discretion to tailor its program to meet budgetary and policy needs. All ASLRP payments are subject to the availability of funds as determined in the Department’s sole discretion. The Department’s policy requires attorneys to request consideration each year, even if currently participating in the program, and to remain eligible, as defined in the Department’s policy.
a. I was awarded $6000 and a lesser amount was paid to my loan holder. What happened?
ASLRP payments are subject to applicable taxes and withholdings, which are deducted prior to payment. Please review the information on tax consequences, below.
This term refers to the Department’s policy of matching payments rendered by the individual attorney on qualifying federal student loans. There is a threshold annual base salary that triggers the effect of this policy. Currently, the threshold is an annual base salary of $84,000. Attorneys earning less than that amount will receive the maximum funding authorized by the Department without a comparison of the amount they individually paid on their federal student loans. However, if the attorney earns that amount or more, then the Department will look at the loan payments he or she made in the preceding calendar year (January through December), and will match that amount, up to $6,000. Please note that attorneys initially approved for an ASLRP payment less than $6,000 due to the matching funds policy may increase their personal payments to be eligible for a higher ASLRP payment (up to $6,000) during the second or third year of an existing service obligation. For detailed information, see the ASLRP policy, Appendix E.
Yes. Payments issued by the Department through the ASLRP are considered income, and are subject to applicable taxes and withholdings. Although a student loan payment is paid directly to the loan holder on behalf of the attorney, the payment is nonetheless includable in the attorney’s gross income and wages for Federal employment tax purposes. Consequently, the Department will withhold and pay employment taxes from the loan payment. The applicable employment taxes include Federal income taxes withheld from wages (and, where appropriate, State and local income taxes), and the attorney’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. Tax withholdings will be deducted or applied at the time any loan payment is made. (See 5 CFR 537.106(a).) Please note the implications of deducting taxes directly from a gross loan payment. For example, if the Department has approved a student loan repayment benefit of $6,000 and the attorney’s tax deductions are $2,000, then the Department will make a loan payment of $4,000 to the loan holder. The full $6,000 counts toward the maximum lifetime limitation.
6. Once an attorney is selected for the ASLRP, will he or she receive future payments? If so, what is the impact on the existing service obligation?
Once an attorney is approved for ASLRP benefits, there is a rebuttable presumption that the attorney will continue to receive funding during the second and third years of the 3-year service obligation subject to the “matching funds” provisions, continued eligibility, and availability of funds as determined solely in the discretion of the Department. Continued receipt of ASLRP benefits during an existing service obligation (e.g., the second and third years of a three-year service obligation) will not trigger an extension of the service agreement. At the end of the three-year period, attorneys seeking addition loan repayments must recompete for selection with new requesters and, if selected, enter into a new three-year service obligation. The Department and an ASLRP recipient may mutually agree to modify an existing service agreement, subject to the limitations of 5 C.F.R. § 537.106(c)(2), to provide additional student loan repayment benefits without the need for an entirely new service agreement (which would require a new 3-year minimum service period); however, the decision whether to offer this option to a specific year group will be made by the Panel annually – it may not be individually requested. Such modifications include but are not limited to the possibility of payment increases, or the extension of benefits beyond the 3-year service obligation in exchange for a year by year extension of the service agreement.
Renewal in the program is not automatic. Attorneys selected for the ASLRP in a prior year must submit a “Request for Renewal of Incentive Payments” annually, even while serving an existing service obligation (e.g., years 2 and 3 of the initial Service Agreement). The renewal request is used to establish continuing eligibility, verify proper distribution of prior payments, and determine the payment amount for that fiscal year.
7. What is the impact of moving to a different position within the Department after being selected for the ASLRP?
Lateral moves within the Department following initial selection for the ASLRP do not affect continued eligibility during an existing service obligation.
By law, a service requirement must be set for a period of time not less than 3 years. (See 5 U.S.C. § 5379(c)(1)(A).) Agencies may require service agreements of more than 3 years. The Department requires attorneys who wish to receive payments beyond the initial three-year period to recompete with new requesters and, if selected, enter into a new three-year service obligation.
2. When does the service obligation begin and end?
The effective date of the initial service agreement will begin when the first repayment is approved (generally in July) except in cases where the recipient has not yet entered on duty. In those cases, the obligation starts upon entry on duty. There is no credit for federal service or DOJ service completed prior to the start date. The service obligation ends three years from the anniversary of the start date, except when the attorney has incurred periods of leave without pay (other than absences due to uniformed service) which extend the service obligation on a day for day basis.
3. Can a service period be extended in return for continued payments without triggering a new three-year obligation?
Yes, but only if the Department decides to offer this option to an entire year group of ASLRP recipients. In 2006, the Department offered this option to attorneys originally selected in 2003, allowing them to agree to a one-year extension of their service obligations in exchange for a fourth year of benefits. The Department is not currently offering that option. This option may not be requested in lieu of recompetition upon expiration of a service obligation by an individual participating attorney.
4. May the service requirement be prorated according to the dollar amount of the student loan repayment benefit offered?
No. The minimum service requirement is established in statute and may not be prorated.
5. Is an attorney required to reimburse the Department for student loan repayment benefits received if he or she leaves the Department for another Federal agency before completion of the service requirement?
Yes. The Department’s policy requires repayment. This is specified in the service agreement and in the Policy. (See 5 U.S.C. 5379(c)(2) and 5 CFR 537.109(d)(2).)
6. If an attorney leaves the Department for another Federal agency before completion of the service requirement, is the gaining agency obligated to offer loan repayment benefits and/or continue making loan payments?
No. The gaining agency is not obligated to make any loan payments previously agreed to by another agency.
7. If I am selected for ASLRP in one year (triggering the minimum 3-year service agreement) and I request renewal of benefits in the second year, does the second ASLRP payment trigger another 3-year service obligation?
No. If an attorney was initially selected in FY 2006, the ASLRP payment would have been made in July 2006, triggering an initial 3-year service obligation that will expire in July 2009. Renewal of benefits in FY 2007 and FY 2008 would not impact on the service obligation. If, however, the attorney recompetes and is reselected for benefits in FY 2009, he or she would be subject to a new 3-year service obligation, commencing immediately upon expiration of the first service obligation and ending in July 2012.
8. If an attorney fails to complete the service requirement, is he or she subject to the reimbursement requirements?
If an attorney voluntarily separates from the Department and does not complete the terms of the service agreement, he or she is obligated to reimburse the Department for the full amount of the loan repayment benefits provided (gross before any tax deductions from the loan payment), unless requiring restitution is against equity and good conscience. For example, if an attorney receives $6,000 in the first year of ASLRP participation, then received renewal payments of $6,000 in the second and third years of the original three-year service obligation, but leaves the Department voluntarily six months before completing the service obligation, the attorney must reimburse the Department the full $18,000.
9. If an attorney fails to complete the service requirement because of disability retirement or leaves Federal service because of a disabling condition, is he or she still subject to the reimbursement requirements?
Any attorney who does not satisfy the terms of the service agreement is required to reimburse the Government for all loan payments received. However, the Department may waive all or part of the recovery if it determines it to be against equity and good conscience or contrary to the public interest. (See 5 U.S.C. § 5379(c)(3) and 5 CFR § 537.109.)
10. Where is information on waivers of indebtedness found?
ASLRP funds are recouped pursuant to DOJ 2030.3C, "Collection of Debts by the Department of Justice." The ASLRP Administration Panel reviews waiver requests and makes a recommendation to the deciding official. The authority to resolve ASLRP waivers is held by the Justice Management Division and is not delegated to the individual Offices, Boards, Bureaus or Divisions. Pursuant to DOJ 2120.4F, "Waiver and Compromise of Claims for Debts Owed to the Department of Justice by its Employees," the Department may waive, in whole or in part, recovery of ASLRP funds if it is determined to be against equity and good conscience or contrary to the public interest.
11. What is meant by "against equity and good conscience"?
The Department is responsible for making its own determination regarding what this term means. The Program Administration Panel will make recommendations concerning these determinations. In making its recommendations, the Panel will take into account consistency, fairness, and the cost to taxpayers of recovering monies owed to the Government.
12. Do periods in a non-pay or leave without pay status impact on the end date of the service obligation? What about absence due to uniformed service or compensable injury?
Periods of leave without pay, or other periods during which the attorney is not in a pay status, do not count toward completion of the requited service period. The service completion date must be extended by the total amount of time spent in non-pay status. However, as provided by 5 CFR 353.107, absence because of uniformed service or compensable injury is considered creditable toward the required service period.
Before March 31st of each year, the Department must submit a written report to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) stating when the agency made student loan payments on behalf of an employee during the previous fiscal year (see 5 CFR 537.110). Under 5 U.S.C. 5379(h)(1), each report must include--
1. The number of employees selected to receive benefits;
2. The job classifications of the employees selected to receive benefits; and
3. The cost to the Federal Government of providing these benefits.
OPM will use this information in its annual report to Congress on the Department’s use of the student loan repayment program.
The Department agency must keep a record of each student loan repayment determination and make such records available for review upon OPM’s request. Records may be destroyed after 3 years or after OPM formally evaluates the program, whichever comes first.
Yes. Agencies must report to the IRS the amount of student loan benefits they have provided to an employee.
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