Fraud committed by Soldiers can result in a loss of thousands of dollars to the U.S. government every year. That’s why U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz is taking measures to combat this crime before it begins.
This effort includes Basic Allowance for Housing and Overseas Housing Allowance fraud. According to Baumholder Criminal Investigation Command, 5th Military Police Battalion, BAH and OHA fraud continues to trend as a recurring issue in overseas duty assignments.
Special Agent Andreas Ahrend, Baumholder Criminal Investigation Department, explained these types of fraud substantially impact unit readiness and deter units from accomplishing their daily missions. Education and awareness for community members and leaders is key to combat these types of fraud cases, he said.
“If the community is aware of the rules and regulations, they will be able to come forward when they suspect someone is committing these types of crimes. The sooner law enforcement is notified of these crimes, the better, as this ensures a smaller loss to the U.S. government,” he said.
For the most part, single Soldiers living on base do not receive a housing allowance. However, unaccompanied service members in Europe may collect BAH for dependents residing in the States, the amount depending on location, pay grade and dependency status. BAH is a lump sum entitlement, meaning personnel can pocket the difference between the allowance they receive and the amount they pay for rent.
The Baumholder CID office explained that the trouble starts when overseas Soldiers lie about where their family is living in order to collect a higher BAH allowance or their family circumstances change, such as divorce or movement of the family members to a new location, and they do not report the changes to their finance office.
Ahrend said community members should notify law enforcement or unit leadership when they see indicators of BAH or OHA fraud, such as an unaccompanied Soldier having family members reside in Germany yet still receiving BAH for an area in the States. Another example, he explained, is a Soldier claiming his or her dependents are residing in New York City, yet it is common knowledge that his family is actually residing in Fort Bliss, Texas, a monthly difference of almost $3,000 in BAH.
USAG RP Commander Keith E. Igyarto said unit commanders and their personnel sections are the first line of defense for perpetrators of this type of crime.
“Commanders should know about their Soldiers’ marital status, whether dependents are residing here or in another location and what type of allowance they are collecting. If a commander knows that a Soldier has his family living here in Rheinland-Pfalz yet financial reports indicate that the Soldier is receiving BAH for dependents residing in the States, that’s a red flag and something that should be looked into immediately,” he said.
Baumholder CID agreed that proper review of the Unit Commander Financial Report and proper inprocessing of the personnel section are crucial in terms of combatting this problem before it starts.
The punishments for Soldiers committing this type of fraud vary based on the approximate loss to the U.S. government, but the Uniform Code of Military Justice reflects that confinement could be up to 10 years, including dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
“Make good choices,” Igyarto said. “We’re here to support you and your family, but we ask that you be truthful about your situation in return. I also ask community members to be aware of indicators. If you see something, say something. You’ll be playing an important role in maintaining Army readiness.”