Citibank Doesn’t Understand The Word ‘Minimum,’ Cancels Deployed Soldier’s Student Loan Forbearance

Benjamin is in the military, and currently serving in Afghanistan. We’d thank him for his service, but Citibank says not to. They think that he’s not there anymore, and have ended the active-duty forbearance on his student loans. Calling up Citi and sending them documentation is tricky when you’re you know, in Afghanistan, but he’s doing his best. Nothing he sends is good enough for Citibank to actually believe him.

He writes:

I would love to thank Citibank, http://www.studentloan.com , for the help and support they are showing to deployed military members. They have canceled the forbearance on my student loans while I am in Afghanistan. When Citibank sent mail correspondence requesting a copy of my current military orders I was able to get a family member back home to mail Citibank a copy of my orders. Citibank rejected them but never informed me that by their own determination the orders weren’t good enough. When they sent a second request I responded via Citibank’s online message system requesting information on whether they had received the hard copy of my orders. They said they had but the orders weren’t valid. I sent an email in order to clear up the situation, but again Citibank declined my request. I sent Citibank a reply thouroughly explaining how military orders work and that the orders I had sent in where in fact my current orders but Citibank decided that they knew better. It has been more than 2 months now since I tried to comply with Citibank’s requests and all I have received is a new bill to deal with.

Please note how much time it has taken for Citibank to respond to my correspondence. Over 30 days after I had my orders sent to Citibank a letter was sent to my house requesting orders again, but stating nothing to the fact that they weren’t going to accept the orders I had sent in. 24, 4, and 7 day delays while using the Citibank the electronic message system for prompt service….

Thank you Citibank for making life easier while I am nowhere near home to deal with your ignorance. Keep up the great customer service and prompt responses.

Date:
06/22/2012 09:16 PM CDT
Subject:
Questions about my existing Student Loans-Deferment/Forbearance
I sent in my Active Duty orders nearly a month ago now in order to keep my loans in forbearance. Have you received them yet? I just received a reminder in the mail today that my forbearance was about to expire. If not, is it possible to just email in a pdf of my orders rather than using regular mail. Fax is not an option.

Ticket #:
[redacted]
Date:
07/16/2012 08:55 AM CDT
Subject:
RE:Deferment/Forbearance
The last documentation you provided allowed for a two year obligation from a start date of 07/11/2010, therefore your active duty period was ended on 07/10/2012.

We will need to have documentation that indicates your active duty continues after 07/10/2012.

Ticket #:
[redacted]
Date:
07/16/2012 09:07 AM CDT
Subject:
RE:Deferment/Forbearance
I am still under the same set of orders. New orders will not be issues until I leave that unit.

Ticket #:
[redacted]
Date:
07/20/2012 06:36 AM CDT
Subject:
RE:Deferment/Forbearance
The orders you recently sent were the same ones received in 2010. We are unable to use these orders. Please send in new documentation that will extend your benefits beyond 07/10/2012.

Ticket #:
[redacted]
Date:
07/20/2012 06:52 AM CDT
Subject:
RE:Deferment/Forbearance
The orders received in 2010 are still my current orders. I will not get new orders until I leave my present unit which is not scheduled to occur until next summer. The 2 year obligation listed is just the minimum time I am required to stay at (————-) before I am eligible to receive new orders.

Ticket #:
[redacted]
Date:
07/27/2012 08:41 AM CDT
Subject:
RE:Deferment/Forbearance
Unfortunately, we are unable to extend your activation period without current documentation. If orders are not available, a letter from your commanding officer will be accepted as long as it includes specific beginning and ending dates.

Thanks,
(——————–)

Comments

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  1. PragmaticGuy says:

    I can see Citibank’s point and the OP should get a letter from his CO if he hasn’t done that. But, when this mess is all straightened out, Citibank will be in clear violation of the soldier’s and sailor’s relief act and I’m sure a great lawsuit will be the end result.

    • Captain Spock says:

      No, the OP should NOT get a letter from his CO. Citibank does NOT have a point. They want the following:

      “a letter from your commanding officer will be accepted as long as it includes specific beginning and ending dates.”

      He does NOT have a specific ending date, as his orders clearly state a “minimum” of 2 years. The military may not KNOW when the end date is.

      • JJFIII says:

        YES, he should. The military deals with this every day. The CO sings off for another year (when he claims he is up for new orders). He will have to do this every year, and if that is too much work for him, than that is completely on him. Why is this so hard for the OP to do? is he afraid of his CO? Citibank can not be expected to ‘take your word for it” when the previous orders had a specific end date.

      • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

        Think of it like this. Lets say you have a car lease. And they require you to have a certain insurance coverage on the car. You buy a two year policy for that coverage when you lease it, so for a minimum of two years, you have the coverage. After two years, however, they wouldn’t know if you were still carrying the coverage, as the original policy terms had run their course, unless you sent them proof that you had renewed it. You can’t send them the old coverage papers, as they still list the coverage being from X/X/XX to X/X/XX. You would need to send them some sort of document confirming you have current coverage till some date in the future.

        • 401k says:

          Good analogy. The only problem is that this would be like an insurance company saying that after you had your policy “from xx/xx/xx to xx/xx/xx” telling you they were going to insure you month to month so you wouldn’t have an actual policy period to provide documentation for. To make it even more similar, the insurance company would provide you said documentation after you terminate that policy.

    • Kestris says:

      The military can extend his orders indefinitely as they see fit. Obviously they have done so if his current orders do not expire until next year. Even then, they can arbitrarily extend them past that date if they want.

      Therefore, a letter from his CO would be pointless as it would not have a set, firm end date.

      • MikieJag says:

        Missing the point. There are two things…His orders to Afghanistan and his current contract for the military. He can be extended in Afghanistan, but unless there is something like Stop Loss (very unlikely) then his contract date is what they are looking for.

        Every enlistment has it, whether it is 2-4-6 years…That is where the OP is missing the point, they need his contract…

        • 401k says:

          Not necessarily. The forbearance program in question may be offered to deployed soldiers. Which means if he is stateside the program is over.

          This seems to be something outside the SCRA if I’m reading correctly, so simply being active duty may not cut it for this program.

      • nishioka says:

        > Therefore, a letter from his CO would be pointless as it would not have a set, firm end date.

        So have the CO make one up. Citibank probably doesn’t care as long as the end date isn’t in the past.

    • fsnuffer says:

      Actually I think the OP has more important things to be doing with his time like fighting the Taliban and trying to stay alive. With all the stress he is currently under, he does not need some paper pusher back in the states screwing with him.

      • George4478 says:

        Agreed that he has more important things to do, but this won’t go away without him doing something else. So what is the quickest, less stressful, most-likely-to-be-successful action?

        I think it is the letter from his CO.

    • dourdan says:

      I agree. he needs a letter from his CO saying (at the least) “please extend for another 2 years.”

      BUT I have a feeling that 2 year blocks is all citibank can do, even if he got a letter saying “He will be on active duty for the next 4 years”, they would do another 2 years extension.

      I am a vet (formerally stationed in Europe) and long time citibank customer. they are a great bank, but sometimes they are limited in how much assistance they can offer to over seas military.

      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        Limited by whom? They’re a standalone company in possession of these loans. They’re not limited, they’ve just decided they’re done pretending to care.

        This is also a massive international corporation, and this isn’t the first, probably not even the thousandth, solider in Afghanistan who’s got an account with them. They should know, by now, how orders work.

        This also seems like something that can be handled stateside, by someone with less going on than a solider or his CO. Is there a reason the military doesn’t just have an 800 number or something for this?

    • GrayMatter says:

      It is my understanding that JAG office is well known for hardball approach to companies that try to pull this. And, being lawyers, they can threaten lawsuits and other “encouragements”. I am told that JAG officers are available in all areas.

      • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

        I would wager the JAG officer would say, “here is revised order which lists your discharge date as being next year. We’ll send it in with our cover sheet, so they know it’s official.”

        • bbb111 says:

          “…JAG office…”

          After that, get your Senators involved. They actually like getting involved in this type of thing because it is great publicity (and many of them really do care.)

  2. TastyBeverage says:

    United Strokes of America

  3. Overheal says:

    You would think it sufficient that he was out in Afghanistan.

    They could at the least give him a 30 day extension to clear up the paper mess.

    • dush says:

      Citibank probably thinks he’s just vacationing in Kandahar and trying to fool them.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      They can just retroactively fix it when the judge finally orders them to do so, along with all the legal fees for the legal team involved, and the $1,000,000 fine to be paid to a Veterans organization.

      • cortana says:

        You mean when they pay a $2500 fine for the trouble involved, and admit no wrong-doing leaving the fees to be paid by the soldier?

  4. dogmaticman says:

    Citibank is in the wrong- this is open and shut- the question is how long will they be a bunch of @%*!#s until they get their act together. On another note- numerous students often have this issue, at my graduate school x students get letters claiming their loans are in repayment when they clearly are still in school. School issues another letter, everything is in the clear- but the frequency by which this happens is repulsive. You would think a business so good at counting cash would be at least capable of keeping track of loan forbearance.

    • JJFIII says:

      Not so much open and shut as YOU think it is. If the previous documentation stated he was only there for two years, it is incumbent on him to get CORRECT documentation. Based on this guys logic, if he was at home, and his active duty ended in the middle of July, he could continually say, I am still serving. How hard is it for him to get his CO to fill out a ONE page form? I guess because he is in the military it is far too much work to do things the proper way and everybody should just trust him?

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        I see you also have no idea what the word “minimum” means. GTFO.

        • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

          How so? If I buy an Apple product, it comes with AppleCare coverage which is good for a minimum of one year. I have the option to extend that coverage during that year for an additional 3 years, including that first year. Assume that Apple has a privacy information policy like the Armed Services do. If I go in for repairs and show them my original purchase invoice, how do they know if I extended my warranty past the minimum coverage date, unless I provide them the proof? Unless you think citibank has access to the Armed Services database of soldiers records.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            As he noted, the military doesn’t issue new orders until they, you know, issue new orders. Therefore his current orders, originally issued over 2 years ago, are still his current orders. This is the complete opposite of your example – if you’d purchased the additional 3 years, you’d have been provided with documentation proving that. You changed your situation and got new documentation…his situation has not changed, and therefore he has no new documentation.

            The bank has no right to refuse him based on the fact that he’s honestly presenting them with his current orders.

  5. MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

    A forbearance for active duty military members is not optional, it’s the law. Benjamin should e-mail his Senator’s office next and see if they’d be willing to vouch for his status, since Citibank doesn’t believe him. Bonus points if said Congresscritter is on the Armed Services committee. :D

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      You beat me to it. I’d love to see someone from Citibank in front of a Senate committee explaining why they’re so stupid they can’t understand this serviceman is still in Afghanistan.

    • bben says:

      Definitely call your representatives offices – most of them love to help servicemen. Servicemen all have relatives in their district that vote. When I was in, my senators were L. Mendel Rivers – head of the Senate Armed services committee and Strom Thurmond, who quit the SC state congress during WWII to parachute into Normandy with his unit, the 82nd Airborne. A letter from either of those would send any CO in any service into a panic.

      The threat of a Congressional or Senate hearing has the same effect on the CEO of a bank. Then, remember to send a letter of thanks, and if possible drop in to thank them personally when you get home. And wear your uniform when you do. They will pull a cameraman in to take a picture for publicity.

      • MarkFL says:

        Don’t think it will take a hearing. It’s nearly August in an election year. Congressmen will fall over each other hoping to tell voters how they helped an Afghanistan vet solve his problems with a large bank. Hell, he could probably contact a congressman ANY state and still get action.

    • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

      “A forbearance for active duty military members is not optional, it’s the law.”

      And they complied with the law for two years, as per the orders they were supplied by the OP. But because the OP’s paperwork said that their term was up in 7/12, they are asking for PROOF that they are still active duty.

  6. MikeCardace says:

    Hi all, I’d to get in touch with Benjamin as soon as possible to have this experience reviewed. Laura N, can you please pass my email address along?

    Kind regards,

    Mike Cardace, Citi
    michael.cardace@citi.com

  7. DaveInBillsburg says:

    He needs to contact his Senator or Congressman and let them know about it. Depending on who that it I’m sure the media scrunity will clear up this mess quickly.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      He just needs to get a TV station involved. They will have to interview him via Skype or something.

  8. Cooneymike says:

    Oh, this guy should totally write this up on Consumerist and … Oh, wait. Maybe he should just have his CO write some form letter every SJA has on his laptop and be done with it too.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      He sent in his current orders. They are valid. The 2 years is the MINIMUM. They are in effect until he leaves his unit. Citibank is just wrong. No surprise as that bank is so incompetent.

      • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

        Well, one could understand that if at a minimum you are in for two years, AFTER two years, you can leave. So they would like proof that you didn’t.

        • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

          You can leave? Really? Just like that? “Hey boss, I’m taking the Mazar-e-Sharif-to-Atlanta flight?”

          Two years is the minimum, just like the minimum sentence for manslaughter is 10 years.

  9. Lyn Torden says:

    I can assure you, from personal experience, that Citibank is thoroughly incompetent. I did encounter two people there who were competent, but limited by the bureaucracy. Not long afterwards, they were not longer working at Citibank (I have no idea if they resigned or Citibank sacked them for doing the right thing).

  10. cspschofield says:

    Were I a CO confronted with this kind of problem on behalf of one of my soldiers I would be sorely tempted to write a rather sharp letter to Citibank, ending by offering to have the 82nd Airborne come over and explain it in person….

    Twits.

  11. scottd34 says:

    Why more people don’t switch to USAA is beyond me. That bank specializes in serving military, this would never happen with them.