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How to Protect Yourself from MOHELA Mistakes as Restart Gets Ugly

A few simple steps will help ensure that servicer errors don’t result in high payments or extra interest spending.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

Published:

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The student loan repayment restart has presented borrowers with many challenges, especially those who are forced to work with MOHELA.

Things have gotten so bad that the federal government took the unprecedented step of withholding payments to MOHELA.

The Department of Education recognizing the issue, and taking steps to fix things is a step forward. However, it is too little too late for the many borrowers who are overwhelmed and frustrated.

In light of these challenging circumstances, borrowers should consider taking additional measures to safeguard their interests and avoid unnecessary spending.

Call MOHELA First Thing in the Morning

Contacting MOHELA’s customer service first thing in the morning, when representatives are just starting their shift, may prove advantageous.

At the beginning of the day, customer service agents are less likely to be fatigued or frustrated, increasing the likelihood of receiving more focused and helpful assistance. Furthermore, calling during the early hours may result in shorter hold times, allowing borrowers to address their concerns more efficiently.

Borrowers with Direct Loans or federally-held FFEL loans should call MOHELA at (888)866-4352. The call center opens for business at 7 AM Eastern, Monday through Friday. Weekend hours are not offered.

Keep Detailed Records of Everything

Maintaining meticulous records of interactions with MOHELA is crucial for borrowers navigating the current mess. Taking thorough notes during phone conversations is a prudent practice, capturing key details such as the date, time, names of representatives spoken to, and a summary of the discussion. These notes can serve as valuable reference points in case of future discrepancies.

In addition to documenting phone conversations, borrowers should make copies of all documents submitted to MOHELA. This includes any forms or applications, such as an IDR application or PSLF employer certification. Creating a comprehensive file of these documents provides proof of a borrower’s actions if things go missing in the future.

The devil is often in the details, and the more comprehensive these records are, the better.

Email MOHELA When Possible

Many borrowers need to have a discussion, or they need an instant answer. For these borrowers, calls are often unavoidable.

Additionally, MOHELA’s track record of responding to email communications at this time is spotty.

However, when possible, an email is preferable. Going this route ensures that borrowers have proof of exactly what they were told.

MOHELA doesn’t make it easy to send an email, but it is possible.

On MOHELA’s Contact Us page, there are a couple of dropdown menus in the middle column. Borrowers must pick a state and a topic. For some topics, the option to send a secure message appears in the third column.

Sherpa Tip: Be creative about the topic that you select.

“Repayment Options” doesn’t allow users to send a secure message, but “Payments or Bills” allows it. Likewise, if you select “Forgiveness and Discharge Options” a secure message is unavailable, but there is one for “Public Service Loan Forgiveness.”

The Value of Detailed Records of MOHELA Communications

Maintaining detailed records becomes especially crucial when correcting mistakes made by loan servicers like MOHELA.

The Department of Education recently declared that borrowers will be charged 0% interest and receive credit toward programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment forgiveness when errors are identified. However, without clear documentation, proving the existence of a mistake becomes challenging, potentially hindering borrowers from obtaining the benefits they are entitled to.

In cases where discrepancies arise, having meticulous records of interactions, submitted documents, and any written communication becomes a powerful tool. These records prove the borrower’s efforts and can significantly streamline the resolution process.

Without any proof, things become much more difficult.

Consider Filing a Complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) serves as a powerful tool for borrowers to protect themselves from servicer mistakes. CFPB complaints carry significant weight, as both servicers like MOHELA and the Department of Education take them seriously. This formalized process ensures that borrowers’ concerns are thoroughly examined, providing an additional layer of accountability.

One notable advantage of submitting a complaint to the CFPB is the potential for immediate relief. Typically, CFPB complaints trigger a review of the borrower’s account by the loan servicer, which can prompt a correction.

Additionally, the cumulative impact of individual complaints also makes a big difference. These complaints help the Department of Education identify major issues and can lead to policy changes.

In short, by filing a CFPB complaint, you help yourself and other borrowers.

Doing Your Homework is Critical

At a time when loan servicers, including MOHELA, are prone to making mistakes, it becomes essential for borrowers to protect themselves.

Before calling MOHELA, borrowers should research the questions or concerns they have. Utilizing online resources and tools, such as estimating payments on SAVE, can provide valuable insights. This proactive approach makes it much easier to identify servicer mistakes if they happen.

Finally, when you are given information, verifying things is always a good idea.

Final Tip: Kindness Matters

Borrowers have every reason to be upset with MOHELA.

However, yelling at the customer service representatives won’t help. It will probably make things worse.

The human being on the other end of the phone isn’t out to get you and isn’t trying to make your life difficult. Many customer service representatives are underpaid, undertrained, and deal with abuse from both their bosses and borrowers. They too, are victims of a broken system.

If you try collaborating with the person you are talking to, the outcome will usually be much better.

About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

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