OPM: New way agencies can help feds with Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Announcement comes ahead of the end of a temporary waiver next week.

Announcement comes ahead of the end of a temporary waiver next week. Catherine Lane / Getty Images

Federal agencies can now certify a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program applicant’s past service elsewhere in the government.

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday announced a new way that federal agencies can help their employees navigate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program ahead of the end of a temporary waiver next week.

The popular, yet sometimes frustrating, program, offers college graduates the chance to have their student loan debt forgiven if they spend 10 years working for government or a qualifying nonprofit organization and make regular loan payments over that period of time. Participants have described headaches actually receiving forgiveness due to stringent rules governing loan payments and inconsistent information from the Education Department, contractors that service the program and lenders.

But last October, the Education Department issued a series of temporary waivers and other changes to the program to make it easier for borrowers to qualify, including giving participants a chance to consolidate their loans into the correct Direct Loan program, providing waivers for payments that were calculated incorrectly or were slightly late, as well as offering to review previously denied applications. In July, the department proposed new regulations that would make many of those temporary fixes permanent. Those rule changes are scheduled to go into effect next July.

With the waivers set to expire on Oct. 31 and the old rules governing the program returning until next year, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja sent a memo to agency heads Monday instructing them to make it easier for some federal employee applicants to receive certification that they have worked for a qualifying employer. Agency officials may now certify a federal worker’s employment as qualifying for the program for periods when they were employed elsewhere in the federal government, provided it is documented in their official personnel folder.

“To further assist federal employees, OPM recommends that employing agencies certify their federal employees’ prior federal service performed at another agency, if the [personnel folder] within the employing agency’s custody contains documentation confirming the federal employment claimed,” Ahuja wrote. “[The] federal employee should present a separate [Public Service Loan Forgiveness] form for each federal agency and period of employment for which they are seeking certification and the agency official should certify each form as appropriate.”

Ahuja also instructed agencies to ensure that federal employees’ applications have the correct employer identification number associated with each agency they have worked for and provided a list of agencies and their identification numbers to cross-reference.

Former federal employees seeking certification of their time in government should reach out to the National Personnel Records Center at cpr.center@nara.gov. They should fill out their portion of the employment certification form prior to sending it to the records center. And former feds who have recently left government may be able to receive their certification from their employing agency, provided they still retain their personnel file.

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("OPM Authorized a New Way Agencies Can Help Feds with Public Service Loan Forgiveness.") 

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