NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In a resolution to a dispute that gave a black eye to the U.S. Department of Education and one of its student loan servicers, nearly 78,000 service men and women will receive about $60 million in compensation from student loan servicer Navient (NAVI), according to the Department of Justice. Payments will start going out this month.
Navient, the student loan servicing company that was spun off from Sallie Mae last year, will fund the payments as part of the DOJ agreement to settle charges that Navient improperly piled on excess interest to service members' student loans. The DOJ said the average settlement check will be about $771. Individual payments could range from $10 to $10,000. The DOJ did not provide details on the payment schedule.
"This compensation will provide much deserved financial relief to the nearly 78,000 men and women who were forced to pay more for their student loans than is required under the "Servicemembers Civil Relief Act," said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery. "The Department of Justice will continue using every tool at our disposal to protect the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces from unjust actions and illegal burdens."
The DOJ's investigation of Navient came out of complaints made to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Servicemember Affairs, headed by Holly Petraeus.
Navient denied any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The government's allegations of overcharging weren't limited to the Newark, Delaware company's private loan portfolio. They also applied to the federal loans for which it manages payments on behalf of the Department of Education.
How much of the problem resulted from data management gaps at the Education Department or Navient was not clear -- spokespersons could not be reached for comment.
According to the DOJ, ED is now using a Department of Defense data base to identify borrowers who may be eligible for lower interest rates under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, rather than require them to initiate an application process.