Army working to correct stop-loss pay glitch
Soldiers advised to watch ETS dates on Leave and Earnings Statements
Stars and Stripes
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — While Army officials in Europe acknowledge there was a glitch in the paychecks of some stop-lossed soldiers, it appears the only way other troops can prevent such problems is to keep an eye on Leave and Earning Statements.
Earlier this year, some 90 1st Armored Division soldiers who were deployed to Iraq and Kuwait found themselves without a paycheck when they hit their expiration of term of service, or ETS, dates, even though they were being held in the Army under stop-loss orders.
Army officials in Europe not only acknowledged the problem, they fixed it. As of mid-April, all the affected soldiers had their pay restored. There are no more 1st AD soldiers serving without pay, according to division officials.
But weeks later, no one at the Department of Defense can, or will, say the problem has been fixed Armywide or even confirm what happened. Officials at both the Army’s Human Resource Command and at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service acknowledge there’s a problem, and they are trying to fix it, according to e-mail responses to multiple Stars and Stripes queries.
“The Army’s Human Resource Command and DFAS are aware of the potential for conflicting information in their databases that might cause problems in misidentifying soldiers’ ETS dates,” according to a statement from Sgt. Maj. James R. Bragg, Re-enlistment Branch Management sergeant major, Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate. “HRC and DFAS are working together to establish a process to ensure data accuracy in both systems that would prevent problems like this from occurring in the future.”
But, according to Bragg and other officials, the only sure-fire fix is soldiers monitoring their ETS dates.
If a soldier who’s about to leave the Army gets caught under a stop-loss, stop-movement order, the ETS date on his or her Leave and Earnings Statement should change to reflect the time the deployment is adding to their enlistment, plus a 90-day redeployment. If the ETS date on the pay stub doesn’t change, the soldier won’t be getting paid after that date even though he’s still in the Army.
Soldiers need to go to career counselors and get the discrepancy corrected, Bragg wrote.
But why ETS dates aren’t changing automatically still isn’t clear.
No DFAS officials would go on the record. Instead, they issued this statement: “In this case, the problem has been identified by the appropriate Army commands and we are confident that a solution has been found and is being implemented that will provide DFAS with information which we will use to pay servicemembers accurately and on time.”
Making ETS changes to reflect stop-loss status begins at the company level, with a unit commander’s finance reports, say Army officials in Europe. These audits should catch ETS dates 90 days out, before terms of service expire.
But the status for the units themselves, part of “unit identification codes,” or UICs, get changed at the DFAS and HRC level, according to those officials, who asked not to be quoted by name because they’re not cleared to speak to the media.
Those UICs are just one bit of data flowing through two separate and segregated systems — finance and personnel — tracking copious financial info, moving pay into accounts and finally issuing LESs.
While the ETS-related pay problems may be affecting soldiers Armywide, it appears to be limited in scope considering at any given moment thousands of soldiers are changing stations. With so many people moving, and nearly one million LESs compiled each month, it’s understandable there are occasional problems, say Army officials.
One Europe official rated tracking down exactly what caused the ETS-related glitches as highly unlikely.
“I don’t think you’ll ever know.”