I am not sure where to put this thread, but I am, as usual, on a crusade and I wanted to share my experience with a view toward helping anyone else in the same boat and to discover whether there are other folks having similar difficulties.
We applied for IBR in late summer/early fall. The first application we sent in was rejected because we were supposed to send in separate forms even though my husband's and my loans are consolidated together. We did as they asked and sent the applications back in immediately.
Around a month or so later, we received a payment book for $380/mo payments. This was nothing like what the online calculator led us to believe our payments would be, so I called in.
I was told it was correct according to IRS records, etc. I argued that it was not correct and finally, got the customer service person to agree that it was not. She told me she would send it in for investigation and asked me to call back almost a month later.
I know people who work at call centers, so I was suspicious that she told me that date in order to get rid of me without hurting her personal statistics for call-backs, but I cooperated.
I called back on the date indicated, 11/18/2009, and was told that the $380 was correct, but the customer service person slipped and said that it was for a family size of one. I reminded him that we have six people in our family and he quickly corrected himself, agreeing that it was for six people.
I asked to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor agreed that the $380 payment amount was correct, so I asked her how it was calculated. She told me it was 15% of income over 150% of the federal poverty line by family size. I asked her what the poverty line for a family of six was and she told me. It was immediately apparent to me that there was a mistake, because we do not make a lot more than 150% of the federal poverty line for our family size. I gave her the data and asked her if she understood what I was talking about and she said she did not. She said the payment was also based on the amount we owed. I told her that it was supposed to be based on our income and family size, etc. Eventually she put me on hold.
When she came back on the line, it finally came out that they had us down as a family of one. I do not know how this happened if they were going by either our application or our IRS records. My husband and I have been married 17 years, all four of the children are biological children who have lived with us since their births, the youngest being ten years old.
I shared this with the supervisor and offered to provide any kind of documentation needed to prove there are six people in our family, but she said it would not be necessary. She said she would correct the data and asked me to call back in 24-48 hours (a more reasonable time frame that made me believe she was not BSing me).
I called back the next day and discovered our new payment is $30.20, which our family can afford and still buy groceries. We received the payment booklet confirming the payment amount in the mail a few days ago.
Suggestions based on this experience:
If you are having trouble with Sallie Mae or another student loan company giving you an outrageous payment amount, I suggest making sure they have your data for income and family size correct.
Be prepared to cut through service people who will flat out lie to you about your data and treat you like you are being unreasonable and ignorant, just make it clear that you are not going to give up and go away and do not agree to any long periods between call backs, because the service person is probably just screwing with you and covering their own rear in the process.
Requisite NF crazy anti-corporate conspiracy theory:
I do not think Sallie Mae wants to give people Income Based payments, so they have given their customer service people some weird instructions/incentives in order to prevent people from getting it, knowing that many people will just give up.