Army overseas finances

***image1***It is ultimately the responsibility of Soldiers for accuracy of their pay. If unqualified overpayments are made, regardless of who is to blame, the finance office usually will initiate a full recoupment from the next pay. Before any of this has a chance to happen, please talk to a unit NCO in charge, Finance Office, or Army Community Services office to ensure new pay is accurate. Pay information may not be 100 percent accurate, especially during a PCS move with many new transactions.

Direct deposit account
With a joint account, it is very important to coordinate deposits, checks and withdrawals so as not to overdraw. Keeping an account stateside and a second account locally with automatic transfers for local spending helps to reduce problems. Never close a current account before direct deposit is confirmed at a new account. Pay could go into a “hold” status or be returned to the main finance office, either of which may cause no pay.

Arrival documentation
When in-processing at a new unit, all documentation is normally packaged together and sent to the main Finance and Accounting Office. This information may not be updated in the system for some time. Even though the main FAO returns a signed transmittal letter showing receipt, many times some of this documentation is misplaced or incomplete and needs to be resubmitted. Be sure to keep copies of everything submitted and check with an NCO in charge and unit finance office for status updates.

Advance pay, allowances
Ideally, every Soldier should have funds set aside for PCS and temporary duty travel related expenses while in the military. In conjunction with a PCS move Soldiers are entitled to apply for one advance pay from your losing duty station and two advance pays and one advance BAH and OHA upon arrival at your gaining duty station. Advance pay and advance BAH and OHA are not recommended unless absolutely needed to cover expenses. Advance BAH and OHA can be requested at any time as your status or requirements change, but must be submitted at the same time, or prior to, your request for regular BAH and OHA. All advances are non-interest loans and repaid by allotment from your pay, normally prorated for 12 months, but can be extended to 24 months.

Other entitlements, allowances
Every Soldier has certain PCS entitlements and allowances, depending upon location and status. These include: overseas housing allowance dislocation allowance, permissive temporary duty, temporary lodging allowance,temporary lodging expense, cost of living allowance, mileage and travel, per diem, weight allowances, shipments, do-it-yourself moves. Some of these are recouped from future pay and others are not required to be repaid. Ask a supervisor about relocation entitlements and allowances.

Travel vouchers
Submit PCS travel vouchers as soon as possible after arriving. Most travel vouchers take three to five weeks to process and return. Always make copies, review documentation, and double-check calculations to verify accuracy.

Deployable Soldiers may find some major financial benefits such as tax free income, additional pay entitlements and a savings plan with a 10 percent interest rate. Deployments also create potential challenges. Consider allotments or automatic payments to pay most, if not all, of your obligations while downrange. Don’t forget a power of attorney with someone trustworthy to handle unfinished or unexpected affairs.

Family care plans
Dual military couples with children, or single parents, must provide information as to how they will care for loved ones while deployed, possibly returning them to a family member in the states or elsewhere. Think about financial expenses involved and start setting aside funds now to cover this need. Army Emergency Relief may or may not be able to assist.

Communicating with creditors
One of the most important things to ensure a smooth transition is to keep lines of communication open to creditors. Prior to leaving the old duty station, attempts should be made to contact creditors with a forwarding address and any temporary or long term adjustments to the current payment schedule that may be required. Communicating with stateside creditors from Europe can be very difficult and expensive. One option for maintaining consistent payments is to set up an allotment from pay or checking account for debt payments. Maintain documentation and account numbers on the debt to know when to terminate the allotment later. Debt balances owed to the government, AAFES (Star Card), commissary, or the government travel card, can, and will be deducted from paychecks unless proactive requests are made in advance.

Handy cell phones
Cell phones are very popular and in Germany they are called “handys.” Do not use a handy to call a stateside number without a good overseas calling plan. Use e-mail to save a lot of money. Local regular telephone service can be expensive also and the billing statement difficult to understand so be prepared to seek assistance. Local calls can be charged by the minute and many Internet access programs include a “per minute” fee charged by the local phone company.

Boredom costs money
For single Soldiers living in the barracks just “hanging out” at the Base Exchange, PowerZone or club due to boredom can exhaust a lot of income. Try the fitness center, riding a bike, jogging, or volunteering in the community. Impulse spending is another major problem and can be controlled by planning for and researching major purchases.

Financial assistance
ACS office has several resources available to assist Soldiers and families. Individual financial counseling and unit training classes are available. An Emergency Food Assistance program offers assistance for temporary and short term food purchases at the commissary. The coupon program assists in lowering total food costs. Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance is available to assist by increasing monthly basic allowance for substance by as much as $500 if families qualify. The WIC program for women, infants and children offers food and baby item assistance. Army Emergency Relief assists in unforeseen financial emergencies, such as emergency leave, eviction, utility termination, etc.