Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program FAQ
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.
- General Information
- Attorney Eligibility
- Loan Eligibility
- DOJ Policy
- Service Agreements
- Agency Reports and Records
- Impact of the Cares Act & Other COVID Related Relief
The ASLRP is an agency incentive program based on 5 U.S.C. § 5379 in which the Department 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, regulatory, and policy requirements must be met. By policy, the ASLRP excludes otherwise qualifying loans taken out by a parent/guardian for a dependent student. To be eligible for ASLRP, the loans must have been taken out by the attorney and used to defray educational costs incurred by the attorney.
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. Acceptance of ASLRP funds triggers a three-year service obligation to the Department of Justice.
Attorneys participating in the ASLRP may receive awards of up to $6000 per calendar year during each year of the three-year service obligation. Attorneys may re-compete for selection and additional funding in return for a subsequent three-year service obligation. There is a lifetime cap of $60,000 for the ASLRP.
The ASLRP operates on an annual open season starting March 1 each year. Current DOJ attorneys and incoming attorney hires may apply for the ASLRP using the procedures outlined on this website.
The annual submission deadlines for initial requests and renewal requests differ. Renewal award are typically approved in May; new selections are typically announced in late June/early July with payments issued before the end of the fiscal year. OARM notifies selectees directly; non-selection notices are issued by components.
Some components/offices/bureaus have identified a component contact. If no specific person is identified, contact your supervisory chain for instructions.
If, after reading all published materials carefully, you still have a question, email OARM at email@example.com. 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 mid-July. During other periods, email us at AskOARM@usdoj.gov.
A senior-level panel comprised of 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) administers and oversees ASLRP (hereafter the Program Administration Panel). Each member or an authorized delegate independently reviews the Justification, resume, and component recommended scores for each applicant. Results are consolidated, ranked, and funds allocated until exhausted.
Funding is insufficient for support awards to all eligible attorneys. Decisions of the Program Administration Panel on selection of beneficiaries are final and are not subject to appeal.
OARM notifies component contacts and directly emails attorneys selected for participation and confirms their response. This includes "new" participants as well as attorneys who are renewing participation during the second and third year of their service obligation. Once selections are final, OARM notifies the Component ASLRP contacts, who are responsible for notifying assigned attorneys who applied but were not selected.
ASLRP Policy, Paragraph K contains a non-exclusive list of specific responsibilities. Remaining eligible for future benefits is an individual responsibility. Recipients also are responsible for:
- Monitoring their loan account to ensure the ASLRP payment is timely credited to qualifying loans in their account;
- Notifying their component POC of discrepancies;
- Continuing to make personal payments on their qualifying student loans unless the payments are paused due to an extension of the CARES Act and associated executive actions.
Traditionally, the Department issues one award payment per selected attorney each year directly to the loan holder, not the attorney. However, for awards issued between January 27, 2020 and December 31, 2025, individuals may receive that award in two separate payments: non-taxable and taxable.
- Section 2206 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, approved on March 27, 2020, temporarily expanded 26 U.S.C. § 127 (e.g., the IRS code) to exclude from an employee’s gross income up to $5250 in qualifying student loan repayment benefits issued between March 27, 2020 and January 1, 2021.
- Section 120 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2020 (part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 enacted in December 2020) extends this expanded definition of IRC Section 127 from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2025.
- Guidance from the National Finance Center mandates that non-taxable awards and taxable portions of an award be processed as two separate payments.
- Up to $5250 (per calendar year) will be excluded from the attorney’s gross income – that payment will be issued to the loan holder;
- For awards over $5250, the overage will be included in the attorney’s gross income and subjected to taxes and withholdings before the remaining balance is issued to the loan holder.
Historically, renewal payments for current participants are issued in June/July and payments for new recipients issued not later than September (or upon entry on duty for those arriving after September 30th). Payments are issued directly to the loan holder(s).
If your payment is not credited to your qualifying student loan 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, contact your component’s ASLRP Point of Contact, HR staff (whoever handles your finance transactions) or the JMD Finance Staff contact listed in the annual notice of selection message for assistance in filing an inquiry with the National Finance Center and/or tracking the payment.
For tax purposes, ASLRP payments are considered income. However, due to the CARES Act and supplemental legislation, up to $5250 in ASLRP payments issued to DOJ attorneys will be tax exempt through December 31, 2025. 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.
The annual renewal documents and associated payment history allows the Department to confirm that the ASLRP payment was 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.
Each DOJ component has independent authority to offer student loan repayment as a recruitment or retention incentive pursuant to DOJ Order 1200.1 (Human Resources), Chapter 12. Attorneys selected for the ASLRP who received loan repayments from DOJ through another program must report the gross amount of payments to OARM for inclusion in the statutory maximum amount that may be awarded by the Department. Service obligations associated with a non-ASLRP loan repayment program (e.g., one offered by a U.S. Attorney's Office or component) may run concurrently with or overlap a service obligation incurred from the ASLRP.
Any DOJ employee serving in or being hired to serve in an attorney position who has minimum qualifying Federal student loan debt of at least $10,000, and who can execute a three-year service agreement, may apply. The $10,000 minimum does not apply to renewals during the second and third year of a service obligation.
Some attorneys are excluded by law (e.g., political appointees), and others, because of the type of appointment they hold, cannot meet the minimum statutory service obligation of three years (starts when approved for the ASLRP; prior service cannot be retroactively credited).
Attorneys who are appointed as Immigration Judges and attorneys in the Senior Executive Service are eligible to apply.
For more information, see Eligibility Requirements.
Available funding does not permit the Department to issue ASLRP awards to all eligible attorneys who apply. Each year, the Department selects new recipients for participating in the ASLRP, subject to availability of funds.
Attorneys previously selected may renew without further competition during the second and third year of their service obligation.
5 CFR § 537.105 requires a determination that DOJ attorneys receiving student loan repayment incentives be identified as highly or uniquely qualified, or meet a special department need.
Any DOJ employee assigned to an attorney position may request consideration for the ASLRP by submitting a justification packet sufficient for the Department to find that the attorney is highly or uniquely qualified or meets a special Department need.
DOJ components may, at their discretion, identify certain factors and associated factors of recruitment/retention difficulty to serve as guidelines for their attorneys in crafting their justification, which are published as Appendix A of the ASLRP policy.
While component factors may serve as guidelines for their attorneys in crafting their justification, attorneys are not required to address component-specific factors in their justification (if applicable), and failure to do so does not create any negative inferences; the Panel independently reviews and evaluates all ASLRP requests.
The factors for all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are listed at the bottom of Appendix A. Please do not attempt to justify consideration using the factors posted for main justice litigating divisions (i.e., the Civil Division or the Criminal Division).
Yes, but there are possible constraints. Many law schools offer student loan repayments. If you participate in a law school program, when applying for the ASLRP 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 loan balance.
The ASLRP award is less than the $10,000 maximum allowed by statute. Components may, at their discretion, offer a supplemental student loan repayment (SLRP) for the difference between the statutory maximum and your ASLRP award. Such supplemental SLRP require you to enter into a separate agreement with the component. The service obligation associated with a supplemental SLRP may be concurrent with or overlap the ASLRP service agreement.
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 1- to 2-year appointments 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 at time of selection 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.
j. Attorneys who, after selection for the ASLRP, fail to make personal payments to qualifying loans or permit their loan holder to suspend automatic debit payments to their qualifying loans may be disqualified from receiving further benefits.
k. Attorneys who, after selection for the ASLRP, consolidate all their qualifying loans into private loans are no longer eligible. By law, ASLRP funds may not be paid on behalf of private loans.
l. Attorneys who, after selection for the ASLRP, fail to comply with ASLRP policies, may be disqualified from receiving further funding.
The term “student loan”, for purposes of the ASLRP, means—
- a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under part B of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1071 et seq.);
- a loan made under part D or E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087a et seq., 1087aa et seq.); and
- a health education assistance loan made or insured under part A of title VII of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 292 et seq.) or under part E of title VIII of such Act (42 U.S.C. 297a et seq.).
Qualifying loans can include:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students
- Direct Consolidation Loans
- Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans (from the FFEL Program)
- Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans (from the FFEL Program)
- FFEL PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students
- FFEL Consolidation Loans
- Federal Perkins Loans
Non-qualifying loans include any loan that does not fall within the statutory definition of a student loan under 5 U.S.C. 5379. Such as:
- Private loans, including but not limited to
- Law Access Loans,
- Law Access Consolidation loans,
- Bar Examination Loans,
- Law School Loans,
- Bar Study Loans
- Loans held by banks and finance companies (e.g., Sofi)
By policy, the ASLRP excludes otherwise qualifying loans taken out by a parent/guardian for a dependent student or by one spouse for another. To be eligible for ASLRP, the loans must have been taken out by the attorney and used to defray educational costs incurred by the attorney.
Loans purchased or sold by the original holder are eligible for payment provided all regulatory requirements are met and the loans remain qualifying loans. However, loans that are consolidated into private loans do not qualify. The new loan(s) must continue to meet the statutory and regulatory guidelines that define qualifying loans.
Provided the newly consolidated loan is a qualifying loan, 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.
The Department has established an award ceiling, per attorney, of up to $6,000 per calendar year, subject to a cumulative lifetime maximum of $60,000.
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.
ASLRP payments are issued in one lump sum. You have the discretion to direct your loan holder to apply the award either to reduce the overall loan balance or to defray current and future payments (e.g., allow your loan holder to substitute the ASLRP payment for your current and future personal payments), if feasible. For 2023, the option to apply the award to future payments may not be available for loans owned by the Education Department due to the extension of the COVID-19 payment pause.
- COVID-19 Loan Payment Pause and 0% Interest: In response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Education Department (ED) paused loan payments and set interest rates to 0% for eligible federal student loans effective March 13, 2020. The payment pause has been extended until the ED is permitted to implement the debt relief program or current litigation is resolved. Payments will restart 60 days later. If the debt relief program has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by June 30, 2023, payments will resume 60 days after that. The ED will notify borrowers before payments restart. Please note that the full amount of payments made to loans owned by the ED during the 0% interest period will be applied to the principal balance once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13, 2020, has been paid. Visit COVID-19 Loan Payment Pause and 0% Interest | Federal Student Aid for details.
- Qualifying loans not held by the ED never qualified for the loan payment pause and 0% interest. Those ASLRP recipients may exercise the option to direct their loan holder to apply the award to current/future payments this year.
ASLRP payments are subject to applicable taxes and withholdings, which are deducted prior to payment. Please review the information on tax consequences, below. Please also note that due to the CARES Act and supplemental legislation, up to $5250 in ASLRP payments issued to DOJ attorneys will be tax exempt through December 31, 2025. Taxable and non-taxable payments are issued separately (i.e., an attorney receiving $6000 will receive one payment for $5250 and a second payment reflecting the balance after subtracting taxes and withholdings on the remaining $750).
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).) However, due to the CARES Act and supplemental legislation, up to $5250 in ASLRP payments issued to DOJ attorneys will be tax exempt from March 27, 2020, through December 31, 2025.
Participants may receive up to three payments during the three-year service obligation. Once selected, the attorney may renew payments during the second and third years of the service obligation subject to the “matching funds” provisions, continued eligibility, and availability of funds as determined solely in the discretion of the Department.
Renewal awards do 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.
Renewal in the program is not automatic. Current participants must submit a renewal request annually while serving an existing service obligation (i.e., years 2 and 3 of their 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.
Lateral moves within the Department following initial selection for the ASLRP do not affect continued eligibility during an existing service obligation; however, because components bear part of the cost, attorneys should inform the gaining component of their participation.
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).) 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. If re-selected for a consecutive award, the new service obligation starts the day after the prior service obligation ends. If there are gap years between selections, then the rules applicable to initial selections apply.
The initial ASLRP service obligation begins the date the award is approved (each selectee receives an individual email notifying them of selection). If the attorney is an incoming hire, the service obligation begins upon entry on duty. There is no credit for federal service or DOJ service completed prior to the effective start date.
The service obligation cannot be prorated.
An attorney who voluntarily separates from the Department of Justice before completing the terms of the service agreement is obligated to reimburse the Department for the full amount of the loan repayment benefits provided (gross before any tax deductions), unless requiring restitution is against equity and good conscience or against the public interest. See Leaving DOJ Prior to Completing Service Obligation & Wavers of Indebtedness for more detailed information.
Periods in a non-pay or leave without pay status toll the service obligation. The service obligation ordinarily ends three years from the anniversary of the start date, however, periods of leave without pay or in a non-pay status extend the service obligation on a day for day basis.
The service obligation is not extended for absences due to uniformed service or compensable injury, even if the attorney is in a non-pay status.
Agency Reports and Records
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.
- It is a component responsibility to account for ASLRP participants and report this information to the Department.
Agencies must report to the IRS the amount of student loan benefits they have provided to an employee.
Impact of the Cares Act & Other COVID Related Relief
This policy guidance applies only to attorneys participating in the Department-wide Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program overseen by OARM and not any individually negotiated or component-run student loan repayment programs.
On March 27, 2020, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. Sections 2206 and 3513 of the Act impacted on certain federal student loans by:
- Automatically suspending payments and interest accrual on federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education for the period March 13 through September 30, 2020. During this period of 0% interest, the full amount of any payments made will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.
- The CARES Act suspension of payments and interest accrual does not apply to private loans, federally guaranteed loans owned by commercial lenders, or loans owned by educational institutions.
- The pause on student loan payments and interest accrual on loans owned by the Department of Education has been extended multiple times. The most current expiration date is June 30, 2023.
- Temporarily expanding 26 U.S.C. § 127 (e.g., the IRS code) to exclude from an employee’s gross income up to $5250 in qualifying loan repayment benefits issued between March 27, 2020 and January 1, 2021.
- Section 120 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2020 (part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 enacted in December 2020) extends this expanded definition of IRC Section 127 from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2025.
- Guidance issued by the JMD Finance staff and National Finance Center indicate that if an approved ASLRP payment exceeds $5250, the overage will be included in the attorney's gross income and subjected to taxes and withholdings before the remaining balance is issued to the loan holder. Non-taxable and taxable student loan payments will be processed as two separate payments.
For general information on the impact of the CARES Act on federal student loan borrowers, including the impact on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) plan, please monitor the U.S. Department of Education website.
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