Online survey helps DOD set monthly utility allowance

by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Spc. Raymond Engstrom recently took an online Department of Defense survey about his monthly expenses living off post — information that helps the military better understand the costs troops face while living overseas.

A Soldier from U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, Specialist Engstrom said he took the survey because the data helps the DOD set overseas housing allowances for service members living in privately leased housing in Germany, where costs can be
high and currency exchange rates fluctuate.

“It helps the military know how much to give you as far as your utilities payments, which is very important,” Specialist Engstrom said. “Utilities are where you get hit.”
Each year, the DOD seeks input from military members in Germany and other countries about their monthly expenses. The voluntary survey is open until April 15 and takes roughly 30 minutes to fill out.

The DOD uses the data to set monthly-paid utility and recurring maintenance allowances that troops get to help defray expenses. Service members in Germany who lived in a privately leased housing for the past six months or more and receive an overseas housing allowance are encouraged to take the survey, according to a U.S. Army Europe news release.

Specialist Engstrom arrived in Kaiserslautern last year after serving a 15-month tour in Baghdad, Iraq.

He lives in a second story walkup apartment in a small village nestled in the Pfalz forest about 12 miles southeast of Kaiserslautern. It’s his first time renting overseas, so he keeps careful track of what he spends, he said.

“There’s gas for heating, water bills, power bills, plus I pay for garbage removal, chimney sweeping and stairwell maintenance,” he said.

Things not considered utilities in the survey include charges for cable TV, Internet, telephone service, cleaning and yard maintenance. Survey takers should use records and receipts to accurately determine their average utility/recurring maintenance expenses, USAREUR officials said.

A mass e-mail went out to unit leaders recently about the survey. Specialist Engstrom’s supervisor recommended that he take it.

“Being the first time I’ve lived off post since being in the Army, it was important to say, this is how much I’m paid versus what my expenses are,” Specialist Engstrom said. “The payoff is making sure my bills are getting paid and that my finances are straight.”

To access the survey, visit “Hot Topics” at www.kais