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How your reason for withdrawing from a class affects your VA debt

If you withdraw from (or “drop”) a class, or if you fail a class, you may need to pay us back for the benefits you used. But if we recognize that situations or events beyond your control (mitigating circumstances) caused your withdrawal or failing grade, you may not have to pay us back. Keep reading to find out what situations and events we recognize and how to report them.

What are mitigating circumstances?

Mitigating circumstances are situations or events beyond your control that cause you to withdraw from a class. We consider your reason for withdrawing from a class when we decide if you’ll need to pay us back the benefits you already received.

Mitigating circumstances include:

  • An illness or death in your immediate family
  • An injury or illness you had while you were enrolled
  • A change in your conditions of employment that you couldn’t avoid
  • A job transfer to a new location while you were enrolled that you couldn’t avoid
  • Immediate family or financial demands that you had no control over
  • Active military service that you didn’t know about ahead of time
  • A sudden end to (or cancellation of) the course you were taking
  • A sudden end to child care coverage that you didn’t know about ahead of time

If we recognize that you had mitigating circumstances, we may decide that you can keep any benefits you received up to the day you stopped attending the class. 

How do I report mitigating circumstances?

You’ll need to tell your School Certifying Official (SCO) about any mitigating circumstances if you reduce your credit hours. When the SCO notifies us about changes to the credit hours you’re taking, they’ll report any mitigating circumstances. 

If your SCO doesn’t tell us why you dropped credit hours, we’ll send you a letter asking you to submit any mitigating circumstances you experienced while you were enrolled. You’ll need to write us a note that explains why you dropped credit hours. Send this note to your Regional Processing Office. 

Find the address for your Regional Processing Office

We’ll notify you by mail if we accept your mitigating circumstances. If we don’t accept your reason for dropping credit hours, we’ll explain why and tell you the amount you owe us.

What’s the 6-credit-hour exclusion?

The 6-credit-hour exclusion is a 1-time exception that lets you drop up to 6 credit hours and still keep the benefits you received up to the day you stopped attending classes. You don’t have to show mitigating circumstances to keep those benefits. 

You can use the 6-credit-hour exclusion only once, even if you drop fewer than 6 credits. So you can’t use it to drop 3 credits, then use it a second time to drop 3 more credits. 

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