Money, money, money when it's due it's not funny

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"Amount due," is a short, but scary phrase.

To keep from seeing this phrase and phrases like it on a leave and earnings statement, the 52nd Comptroller Squadron has pin-pointed some common statement errors specific to Spangdahlem AB. They also have recommendations to help keep Airmen out of financial holes and provide them tools to dig themselves out before they get buried too deep.

Staff Sgt. Tim Fordham, 52nd CPTS debt manager, explained the first line of defense to ensuring pay is correct is to understand the LES.

"It's one thing to check an LES, but all Airmen should really understand it," he said. "When Airmen are brand new, they don't necessarily know what to look for. We recommend, and hope, that their supervisors go over it with them and explain what everything means, or if they can't explain it, they can come to finance. We can go over it with them to ensure that they know what everything means."

To keep Airmen from incurring debts, which Fordham says finance always finds out about sooner or later, it's recommended Airmen check their LES regularly and pay special attention to particular areas.

One thing Airmen should look out for when they change duty stations is debt for basic allowance for housing. Between duty stations, Airmen are entitled to table-rate BAH, which is a flat rate BAH for people in transit only. Airmen are no longer entitled to table-rate BAH and must check their LES to ensure they have stopped receiving payments for it once they sign in to their new duty station.

Another payment Airmen should look out for is dual BAH, he said.

Dual BAH is only for members whose dependents are not command sponsored and not permitted to travel on military orders. If a spouse has to remain in the states and can't get a command sponsorship for whatever reason, the dual BAH is valid. The dual BAH is no longer valid if the spouse gets command sponsored, regardless of whether they accompany the service member.

Command sponsorship is only authorized for members assigned overseas. Members with command sponsorship receive increased cost of living allowance and BAH, said Airman 1st Class Sherrell Colbert, 52nd Force Support Squadron force management apprentice.

When looking for these housing allowance discrepancies on the LES, Fordham warns members to take note that the LES doesn't display overseas housing allowance and table-rate or dual BAH separately. The BAH displayed is the total of all housing allowances to include overseas housing allowance. For those receiving regular OHA and utility allowances, the amount of BAH displayed will match what is allotted for their pay grade and number of dependents based on their rent amount.

"Your OHA and utilities allowance, shown as BAH on your LES, are there to offset the cost of your rent and utilities; you shouldn't be making money off of it," he said.

Another program Airmen should not make money off is the meal-card program. Airmen on the program should review their LES to make sure they are paid the correct cost of living allowance amount. They should also ensure meal deductions are taken out.

"You can see if you are receiving the correct amount of COLA by looking at the notes on the bottom of your LES where it says dependents," Fordham said.

Airmen on the program should see "9" under the word dependents. Single Airmen living off base should see the number "0," and Airmen with dependents should see the actual number of family members they have sponsored here.

"Every Airman gets basic allowance for subsistence," he added. "The difference between people who live off base and in the dorms on the meal card is that [on the LES] in the deduction column, the person on the meal card program will have deductions take out."

Fordham recommends any Airmen who sees a discrepancy or thinks they may have a discrepancy, contact the finance office immediately.

"When any Airmen sees advanced debt on their LES, that should be a hint to come and see finance to talk to us about paying it back or ask how it came about," he said. "We don't just ensure the debts get paid, we're happy to better explain to our customers where the debts came from. Everything is preventable, all you have to do is come over here and we can fix it. If you don't understand something, just ask."

Finance offers numerous ways to settle military pay debts. Airmen's options include:

· Full or partial cash or check payments
· 12-month interest free repayment plans, which require the member's signature
· 24-month repayment plans with a memorandum routed to and signed by the wing commander
· Major command authorized 36-month repayment plans

Fordham said that any deduction made for repayment will show on the member's LES before it hits their bank account.

Members also have the option to file a remission or waiver when feel they should not have to repay the debt on a morale standpoint. This is not for disputing the validity of the debt, but more to argue the point that the member was given wrong information or did nothing wrong on their part only to discover the finance office or Air Force Personnel Center made a mistake.

"The waiver does not guarantee the debt will be waived," he said. "In fact, over 99 percent of remissions and waivers are denied. It does, however, remain an option. In today's Air Force, all Airmen are expected to know and understand what entitlements they are meant to receive. The phrases, "I didn't know I was getting it," or "I didn't know I was not meant to get it," are not excuses."

The finance office's customer service center is open for walk-ins 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. To contact customer service, call DSN 452-6730 or 06565-61-6730, or email