These are questions Airmen are faced with every time they visit a military dining facility. If you are unsure if you are supposed to receive meals at no cost or have to purchase your meals, the easiest ways to find out is to look on your leave and earnings statement.
Look under the entitlements section on your LES. Under the “type” column, see if you are receiving basic allowance for subsistence. Then under “deductions,” if you have listed “meal deduction” and money is being deducted, you normally are considered as being in the essential station messing category (meal card program) and should receive your meals at no cost at the dining facility. If you are receiving basic allowance for subsistence with no deduction being taken, you must pay for all meals.
Of course there are some exceptions on when even ESM members must pay for meals. When you are in travel status and have not signed into your unit or are considered to be on leave or in PCS status you must pay for meals consumed at the dining facility. You are being reimbursed either with a per diem rate (when in PCS and TDY status) or you are receiving BAS (when in leave status). During leave days an ESM member must pay for meals, even if they are on leave in the local area.
To ensure you receive the correct entitlements upon your arrival at a new duty section, it is your and your command support staff’s responsibility to update BAS or ESM status. When you sign in, your CSS should have members who are put on the ESM program sign a letter of understanding. This letter will state they are no longer receiving full rate BAS and are now on the ESM program. You should at this time use your ID card in the dining facility to receive meals at no cost. ESM members are authorized three meals per day at government expense.
Your servicing CSS should then send a letter or an e-mail with your name and social security number to the 435th Services Squadron food service staff office. From here ESM members will be loaded into the base database. Until you are added to the database you will be required to sign an AF Form 1469 at the cashier’s check out. If you sign for more than five days, contact your CSS to ensure the information has been forwarded.
If you are an ESM member and are notified that you will start receiving BAS, you must start paying for your meals on the day specified to finance as the start date. You will be reimbursed for those dates passed. It is considered to be fraudulent to continue receiving meals at no cost when cash entitlements are guaranteed. If you have any questions about this program, contact the food service staff office at 480-2030.