The Defense Department will not impose new debts on nearly 700 overseas civilian workers who the department says received housing allowances “erroneously,” the Pentagon’s top personnel official said this week.
Marine Corps reservists are the latest group of servicemembers and civilian Defense Department employees in dispute with the military over whether certain allowances were properly paid or have to be repaid.
Members of the House Armed Services Committee are calling on the government’s investigative arm to assess the DOD's policies on overseas housing allowances and to determine whether those policies are in line with regulations.
First, nearly 700 overseas Defense Department employees discovered in May that their local housing allowances would be cut off and that they would have to reimburse the Army for payments they had already received. DOD blamed bureaucratic errors for the snafu.
The Defense Department could soon issue a new wave of debt notices to hundreds of overseas civilians for a series of allowances that are intended to offset the costs of working overseas, military officials said.
Some U.S. Army Europe civilians who were among the nearly 700 overseas workers the Defense Department says mistakenly received housing allowances could have those allowances restored following a recent Army decision.
The Pentagon has issued a policy advisory that appears to strike down an interpretation of the term “U.S. hire” long used by the U.S. Army to determine living quarters allowances for U.S. civilians hired to work overseas.
“This is total craziness. Whoever made this decision should be fired,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Nickens, who is among a small, but potentially growing number, of soldiers who face the loss of a housing allowance and possible indebtedness.
When the DOD determined last year that 659 overseas civilian employees, mainly in Europe and the Pacific, were receiving housing allowances in error — a contention refuted by the workers themselves — a one year LQA extension was provided to help employees plan for a future without the subsidy. That extension expires in early May.
Collective lamentation over the falling defense budget has been part of the Washington soundtrack for several years, but it’s not a tune you hear in the office of the new head of the Defense Department’s elementary and secondary schools.
After weathering a number of North Korean provocations during her first year on the job, South Korea’s president may be learning the same lesson as her predecessors: Her influence with North Korea is limited because so much depends on Pyongyang’s willingness to change and cooperate.
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